The State Board of Retirement unanimously voted on Thursday to revoke former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi’s annual pension of $60,142, but a lawyer for the onetime Beacon Hill power broker indicated that his client will probably appeal.
“His personal circumstances are unfortunate, but the board really was only looking at whether or not the basis of the conviction was something that was related to his work,” said Nicola Favorito, executive director of the retirement board.
DiMasi’s lawyer, Thomas R.
He argued that DiMasi had not been “finally convicted” and said it would be a Draconian penalty to take away the pension, which was based on money DiMasi had paid into the retirement system. DiMasi “earned it,” after decades of public service, Kiley said.
But attorney Walter Foster, a past president of the Massachusetts Association of Public Pension Attorneys, said DiMasi’s chances of succeeding are slim.
“It’s not a complex statute,” said Foster, a partner at Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green, P.A. “If you’re convicted of misconduct that is applicable to his office, then that’s that.”
DiMasi was convicted in June 2011 of using his former position as speaker to help a software company win state contracts in exchange for $65,000 in kickbacks.
According to state law, retirees forfeit public pension benefits upon “final conviction of a criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.”
Holly A. Ditchfield, a Duxbury attorney with experience in public retirement and employment law, rejected the notion that DiMasi’s conviction is not final.
“The fact that he’s appealed does not mean he hasn’t been convicted,” Ditchfield said in an e-mail. “I’m not aware of any statute or case law which permits a conviction to be somehow held in abeyance because an appeal has been filed.”
But Gregory F. Galvin, a Weymouth lawyer who has represented retirement boards and workers, took a different view.
“I believe the penalty is so harsh that retirement boards should tread very carefully to be sure that the absolute letter of the law is followed in determining whether or not the member is guilty, which means all avenues of appeals have been exhausted, before forfeiture should take place,” he wrote in an e-mail.
DiMasi’s pension was suspended last September after his sentencing. State Treasurer Steven Grossman said at the time that DiMasi had contributed $127,000 to the pension fund and $154,600 had been paid out to him.
Ditchfield said the board could seek repayment of the monies paid to DiMasi in excess of his contribution.
“Politics do play a role since the treasurer is elected, but it is also the correct course of action to protect other members of the retirement system as well as taxpayers,” Ditchfield wrote.