Retirement board ordered to give DiMasi $127,000

SJC says money contributed by ex-speaker before conviction

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER SALVATORE DIMASI, now serving out an eight-year prison sentence for federal corruption charges, is entitled to the return of about $127,000 in contributions he made into the state’s retirement system before his 2011 conviction, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday.

The State Retirement Board suspended DiMasi’s pension in September 2011 after he was convicted and has since withheld $127,010.05 that DiMasi had contributed to his retirement over the course of his 30-year career on Beacon Hill.

“After DiMasi’s final conviction, the board erroneously continued to withhold his accumulated total deductions instead of returning them to DiMasi in conformity with the clear language of” the law, Justice Francis Spina wrote in the unanimous SJC decision. “By failing to return such deductions, the board denied DiMasi the use and benefit of his own contributions that he had made to the state employees’ retirement system during the tenure of his employment.”

The state’s high court ordered that the Retirement Board return to DiMasi’s family the money he paid into the retirement fund plus about five years of interest, at a rate to be determined by the board’s actuary.

In its ruling, though, the SJC rejected arguments made by DiMasi attorney Thomas Kiley that the former speaker should have been able to collect his more than $4,000-per-month pension while the appeal of his conviction was pending in the US Appeals Court.

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State law allows a pension to be suspended following a “final conviction,” a term that DiMasi’s legal team argued meant after all appeals had been exhausted. The SJC, however, ruled Thursday that “in the context of pension forfeiture, a ‘final conviction’ occurs when an individual is sentenced.”

The former speaker and North End Democrat is currently a federal inmate in North Carolina, serving an eight-year sentence for using his office to corruptly steer multi-million dollar state contracts. Shortly after his incarceration, DiMasi was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer and his wife said late last year that he would soon undergo radiation treatment for prostate cancer.