Former mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr. may have to repay Lynn more than $400,000 after a Superior Court judge ruled he improperly collected extra pay during his two terms by having himself declared a “department head” eligible for pay raises and annual bonuses.
The Lynn city charter strictly limits the mayor’s salary to an amount set by the City Council, which in 1998 established mayoral pay as $82,500. But by taking the same pay increases and bonuses afforded to the city’s department heads, Clancy boosted his annual pay since taking office in 2002 to $147,583 by 2009.
In a 13-page decision made public Thursday, Judge S. Jane Haggerty ruled Clancy had no right to the extra money and “the city is entitled to reimbursement of the amount paid to Clancy above $82,500.”
“According to the plain language of the state statutes, the city charter, and city ordinance, the mayor’s salary is set at $82,500 per annum and he or she is not entitled to receive additional compensation from the city above that amount,” Haggerty wrote in the decision, dated Feb. 26.
“It could be very expensive to me,” Clancy said in an interview, adding that he would be interested in talking to city representatives about a settlement to end possible further litigation.
Clancy said that, in setting his salary, he was following the lead of his predecessor as mayor, Patrick J. McManus. After the City Council repeatedly denied McManus a pay increase in the 1990s, he obtained an opinion from the city solicitor that the mayor could be considered a department head. A previously passed ordinance gave department heads the same pay raises and annual bonuses as city employees received under collective bargaining agreements.
McManus’s salary was $127,827 in 2000 when Clancy, then a state senator, began considering a run to succeed him. In 2001, Clancy resigned his seat to campaign for the city’s chief executive position.
“I did that in reliance on the salary following the same pattern as it did under McManus,” he said.
As mayor from 2002 to 2009, Clancy’s pay increased from $113,092 to $147,583. The pay of city councilors also increased, because by ordinance councilors’ pay is set as 15 percent of the mayor’s salary.
Haggerty’s ruling is the latest twist in a legal drama that began in 2010 when Clancy, defeated for reelection by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy by 27 votes, claimed $33,488 in benefits pay on his way out off office.
Kennedy, who has accepted only $82,500 in annual pay since taking office four years ago, denied Clancy’s claim, prompting him to file a complaint for nonpayment of wages with the attorney general’s office.
Kennedy responded by filing suit, asking a judge to settle the matter not only of Clancy’s $33,488 claim but also whether as mayor he had improperly received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the amount set by law.
Clancy, in the interview, said he does not regret making his claim that the city should pay him the $33,488, and Kennedy’s lawyer in the case, David J. Gallagher, said the mayor may have filed a suit over Clancy’s salary even without the claim.
“It isn’t about the money,” Clancy said of his original claim. “You take a job, you want to be treated, maybe no better than the previous person in the position, but certainly no worse. I wanted to be treated the same, treated fairly.”
Kennedy did not return a call to her office.
In an interview with the Globe last year, Kennedy said as a city councilor she did not agree with treating the mayor as a department head or giving the mayor the same pay raises and bonuses as those negotiated with unionized employees.
“It just never sat right with me,” she said. “I’ve been complaining about this since before I was mayor. And I was finally in a position to do something about it.”
Haggerty’s ruling may also affect Clancy’s annual retirement pension. Public pensions are calculated in part on the average of the highest three years of pay received by a retiree. Clancy, who is 63, received $78,200 annually when his pension began in 2010, based on an average high three years of salary of $142,000, according to retirement records.
If his salary were reduced to $82,500 annually, his annual pension could be lowered by more than 40 percent to $45,375, based on standard pension calculations.Sean P. Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphboston.