EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 1, 2013

Few can match chief's retirement jackpot|Editorial: Few can match chief’s retirement jackpot

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — There’s no question Andover police Chief Brian Pattullo has served the town and its residents well in his 32 years on the force.

But his pending “retirement” in July illustrates once again the extraordinary benefits available to public employees — all funded by taxpayers who will never see such payouts available to themselves.

Few in the private sector can walk away from a job at age 55, begin collecting a pension in the ballpark of $127,000 for the rest of one’s life — all while working another job with a six-figure salary.

Pattullo, 54, will “retire” as Andover’s police chief July 31. He has been with the department for 32 years and served since 1998 as chief.

But Pattullo isn’t really “retiring” at all. He is doing what those of us in the private sector would call “leaving one job for another.” Pattullo will become the chief operating officer of a Boston security firm he declined to name.

“It’s not a retirement. I’m leaving the Andover Police Department, but I’m moving on to another challenging chapter,” Pattullo told our reporter Dustin Luca. “I want to make sure I’m innovative and using my talents as much as I can.”

When a private sector employee leaves one job for another, his or her retirement funds go along. If the employee opts to cash out that retirement early, he does so with substantial financial penalties.

But not so in the public sector. Given sufficient age and years of service, leaving a public sector job for private employment is the start of a financial bonanza that will provide that employee with dual paychecks for the rest of his working days.

Pattullo has chosen his retirement date of July 31 wisely. By that time, he will be 55 years old and have reached 32 years of service. The combination, for public safety officers, means the retiree will collect 80 percent of the average of his highest three consecutive years of salary.

Because Pattullo gave the town advance notice of his pending retirement, allowing time to find a replacement, he received a bump in pay for his final year from a budgeted $162,781 to $169,600.

When he walks out the door, Pattullo will do so with a rather large lump sum payment. He will be paid for 120 days of unused sick time — the maximum allowed — and for unused vacation time, which will be about 12 weeks depending on what he does between now and his retirement date.

Of course, payment for all this unused time will be at Pattullo’s higher salary.

Pattullo notes, rightly, that he has paid a percentage of his salary into the retirement fund his entire working career. But this is no different from a private sector employee contributing to his retirement plan. The difference in the defined-contribution plans available to most in the private sector is that the retiree gets what he was saved, plus any employer contribution and accrued interest. Once that money is gone, it’s gone. Pattullo’s defined-benefit pension continues for as long as he lives.

And taxpayers fund a portion of the public pension system, as well. The state put $287.5 million in taxpayer dollars into the public employee pension fund in 2010.

Indeed, as every dime Pattullo earned came from the public till, one can argue that the entirety of his pension contribution was taxpayer-funded.

Many, if not most, public employees end up with modest retirement benefits after long working careers.

But the idea of a 55-year-old man receiving a six-figure pension as he heads off for another well-paying job is galling to many — as well it should be.