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Injured Woburn officer breaks impasse

Bill to compensate DeNapoli advances

Former Woburn Police Officer Robert DeNapoli.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Former Woburn Police Officer Robert DeNapoli.

With city officials finally in agreement on the details, a plan to provide extra disability retirement benefits to a veteran Woburn police officer is moving forward on Beacon Hill.

The special legislation is now before the state Senate. It would provide Officer Robert DeNapoli with 100 percent pay until he turns 65, the state’s mandatory retirement age for police officers, and 80 percent thereafter.

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State law provides that employees who retire with a disability are compensated for life at a rate of 72 percent of their regular rate of pay.

DeNapoli, 52, suffered serious injuries when he was shot multiple times at close range responding to a jewelry store robbery in 2011.

“I think it’s a very good settlement,” Mayor Scott D. Galvin said. “It’s a fair settlement and takes into consideration everything that happened to the officer and also takes into consideration the concerns of the city as well.”

Galvin and the City Council were at odds for months over the details of the plan, with many of the council members saying it did not go far enough to compensate DeNapoli for his injuries. Councilors wanted DeNapoli to receive a disability pension equal to 100 percent of his pay for life, not just until age 65, as the mayor proposed.

But the impasse was broken when Galvin and DeNapoli, in a series of meetings that began after last Thanksgiving, agreed to move forward with the mayor’s original plan. In light of that agreement, councilors recently voted 9 to 0 to approve filing of the bill.

Ward 2 Alderman Richard F. Gately Jr. said he voted for the package only because DeNapoli was agreeable to the terms.

“I said on numerous occasions when I rejected the mayor’s plan that the only one who was going to be able to change my mind on any settlement was Bob DeNapoli. Bob was comfortable with the agreement — he signed off on it. . . . Other than that our stance was going to be the same,” Gately said of council members.

“I still believe to this day that he deserved” to receive a disability equal to 100 percent of his pay for life, Gately added. “That still would have been my vote if it wasn’t agreed to.”

After the mayor submitted his plan to them last June, councilors sent it to the Legislature, but only after amending it to reflect the more generous terms. But the bill ran aground without the mayor’s signature.

Galvin last August tried without success to have the council act on his original plan. The dispute became an issue in last year’s mayoral race, with challenger John Flaherty siding with the council position.

DeNapoli said in an interview that he decided to go along with the original plan to put an end to the long-running dispute.

“At this point, as time went on for almost a year and a half, two years . . . we weren’t going to get any farther with this. I wanted to take my family out of the line of fire. We’ve been through so much,” he said. “Once the politics started getting into it, that was very difficult to deal with. I’m still dealing with the shooting and the trial.”

“I was shot six times. I’m blind in my left eye, I have leg problems, all that stuff,” he said. “When you go through that and you feel you have to negotiate for [your pension] after that, it’s tough to come to terms with that. . . . But eventually we did. We had to get it over with. There wasn’t going to be a lot more we could do.”

Regarding his condition, DeNapoli said, “I’m in the same place I was a year ago — my eyesight is never going to get better and my legs are in chronic pain, my left leg especially.”

He said he would ideally like to work again but “I don’t know what I’m capable of doing, how many hours I could put in.” He said he and Mario Oliveira, a former Somerville police officer shot in the line of duty in 2010, have been giving talks to police departments and academies about their experiences, advising them how best to stay safe.

The package for DeNapoli closely mirrors the one that Somerville, through special legislation, provided for Oliveira.

Among its other features, it provides, upon his death, monthly spousal survivor benefits equal to three-fourths of his pension, rather than the two-thirds the law requires; and that he be compensated for any injury-related out-of-pocket medical costs not covered by his insurance.

The act also exempts DeNapoli’s disability payments from the state law that limits how much additional income someone retired on a disability can earn without seeing their pension decreased.

Additionally, the act says that all sums paid by DeNapoli into the retirement system be returned to him in a lump-sum payment of about $86,000. Generally, such a payment is only provided as a death benefit to a surviving spouse.

The total added benefits would cost the city about $1.1 million, which, Galvin said, would be funded through an approximately $50,000 addition to the retirement budget each year.

“We want to take care of the people who take care of us,” Gately said. “It worked out for Mr. DeNapoli. I’m not sure he’s 100 percent satisfied at the end of the day. He still has a lot to go through. Hopefully, he can get on with his life. At least he has some dedicated income coming in for his family.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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