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January 19, 2013

Flaherty loses bid for pension

Can appeal decision within 20 days

(Continued)

A message left for Flaherty’s lawyer, Scott Gleason, seeking comment for this story was not returned.

In court, Gleason has argued that stripping Flaherty of his pension for “stealing $700 worth of dirt” is disproportional punishment and violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment as well as excessive fines. Flaherty was convicted of stealing paving material from the city.

Gleason also argued at the Appeals Court hearing in September that Flaherty’s pension should be restored because the theft of paving material “was not related to (Flaherty’s) official capacity even though he did it on city time.” For instance, Gleason said, public employees have been convicted of drunk driving on work time and not had their pensions taken away.

The paving material, called H-base, is what’s left when a paved driveway is broken up to be redone. During Flaherty’s career in Haverhill, the material was brought back to the city’s highway yard to be stored and eventually recycled into new paving material. Some of the H-base was used by the city and some of it was sold to private contractors. Flaherty was convicted of using some of the material for his private, family-owned paving business.

Sacco argued the intent of the law is to provide a deterrent against public officials violating the public trust. He said the value of the stolen property is irrelevant.

“If he is allowed to keep his pension, the perception will be that you can commit a crime as long as it’s not that bad of a crime,” Sacco said in a prior interview. “The intent of the Legislature was that it’s not just about raw harm. It’s to deter someone in that position from doing harm to the public.”

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