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Waltham

Convicted police chief files for pension

Less than a month after being convicted of assaulting his wife, former Waltham police chief Thomas LaCroix has filed paperwork to receive his pension from the department, Waltham Retirement Board officials say.

A Concord District Court jury found LaCroix guilty on June 26 of twice assaulting his wife Andrea in their Maynard home last year. He resigned from his post July 10, the same day Judge J. Elizabeth Cremens sentenced him to a year and a half of probation.

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LaCroix submitted the pension paperwork the next day, on July 11, said Retirement Board director Joseph Juppé.

“It’s an application for retirement, and, just like anyone else’s, it must be approved by the board,” Juppé said. “I can’t comment on what he’s going to get, how much he’s going to get, or when he will get it.”

Juppé said city employees must have worked for 20 years, or 10 years if they are 50 years old or older, to qualify for pension benefits.

LaCroix, 50, worked for the Waltham Police Department for 26 years, and was appointed chief in 2007. According to city payroll records, LaCroix collected $182,358 in salary and other benefits last year, including a $16,814 longevity bonus he received after his arrest, but while he was on paid administrative leave.

Juppé said he could not say whether LaCroix’s conviction on the domestic assault charges would come into play.

“That’s for the board members to decide,” he said. “We get information, and we compile it and use that.”

There are precedents for criminal convictions leading to disqualifications for retirement benefits. Former House speaker Thomas Finneran lost his pension after being convicted of obstruction of justice. John Bulger, the youngest brother of James “Whitey” Bulger, had been a clerk-magistrate in Boston Juvenile Court, but lost his pension after lying under oath about communications with his then-fugitive brother.

LaCroix is scheduled to have a hearing before the Waltham Retirement Board on Wednesday in City Hall.

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy declined to comment on the former chief’s pension application, and referred questions to the Retirement Board.

Michael Sacco, the city board’s lawyer, said under routine circumstances, LaCroix’s 26 years of police service, coupled with his age, 50, would result in an annual pension equivalent to 52 percent of his average salary and longevity pay over the last three years.

Last year, LaCroix made $163,119 in salary and longevity, according to payroll records.

Sacco said the state’s maximum payout of 80 percent applies when a public safety officer is at least 55 years old and has served on the force for 32 years or more.

“If someone started at the age of 23, which is basically right out of college, and worked until they were 55, they would be at the maximum,” he said.

Sacco said he could not speculate on what the board’s actions would be, since the hearing has not been held yet. He also cited attorney-client privilege.

“Obviously, we’re aware he was criminally convicted, and in any circumstance where a public employee was convicted of a crime, we review the underlying facts of the case, as well as the laws that were broken, to determine whether or not those criminal convictions were a violation of laws applicable to office or position,” he said, citing the state law that would allow the Retirement Board to deny LaCroix’s pension application.

Sacco said he expects that the Retirement Board will ask him to review LaCroix’s criminal case as part of Wednesday’s hearing.

“If there were any potential he would lose the right to receive his allowance, the board would conduct another hearing, give proper notice to LaCroix, and then start that hearing process,” Sacco said. The follow-up hearing would probably take place in the fall, he said.

The hearing Wednesday “is really a matter of determining whether or not further investigation is needed,” Sacco said.

If LaCroix does not like the Retirement Board’s ultimate decision, Sacco said, he could take his appeal to the state court system, starting in District Court.

Walter Foster, a Boston-based lawyer who specializes in public pension law, previously told the Globe that Waltham officials could make a “strong argument” that LaCroix should forfeit some or all of his pension.

Foster said the state allows a pension to be taken away if a person has been convicted of a crime related to his or her office.

“I know there are similar cases where arguments have been made for forfeiture because police officers are sworn to uphold the law, and people say, ‘Here you are, breaking it,’ ” Foster said.

In Finneran’s case, for example, the State Retirement Board ruled that the former speaker could not receive his pension because he was convicted of a criminal offense related to his public position.

LaCroix had been on paid administrative leave for a little more than a year when the jury returned the guilty verdict on June 26. He was then taken off the city payroll, but continued on unpaid leave. At that point, he had collected about $200,000 in pay after his arrest June 14, 2012, according to city payroll records.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.
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