EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 19, 2013

Flaherty loses bid for pension

Can appeal decision within 20 days

HAVERHILL — James Flaherty, the former city highway superintendent convicted of stealing from the city, has suffered a loss in his long-running fight to win back his $64,744-a-year pension.

A state Appeals Court decision released yesterday affirmed prior rulings from a superior court and district court that upheld the Haverhill Retirement Board’s 2009 decision to strip Flaherty, 70, of his pension. According to the court ruling, the pension is worth $940,000 based on Flaherty’s life expectancy, and includes health benefits for him and his wife.

In May 2009, Flaherty was convicted by a jury of felony larceny over $250 and pleaded guilty to three counts of filing false tax returns following his trial in Salem Superior Court. Three months later, the Haverhill Retirement Board revoked Flaherty’s pension based on a law that states a person convicted of using his public position to steal from the public forfeits the right to collect the benefit.

The Appeals Court decision released yesterday also ruled Flaherty must repay the Retirement Board $64,008 which he collected before his pension was taken away. That amount represents the difference between the $84,000 that Flaherty paid into his retirement account prior to filing for benefits and the $148,000 he collected before payments were stopped.

“We’re, of course, pleased with the decision,” said Michael Sacco, attorney for the Retirement Board. “It’s important that public employees be held to a standard in which they can’t commit a crime related to their public position and still receive a pension.”

Sacco said Flaherty has 20 days to ask the state Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, for a further legal review. That court has discretion to accept or reject the case, Sacco said.

When the case is over, Sacco said it will be up the Retirement Board to make arrangements with Flaherty for him to return the $64,008.

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