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State High Court|Boots Thief’s Claim

(CN) - A city official who stole parts of his personnel profile in an attempt to obtain reappointment cannot claim civil rights violations for losing his pension, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled.

Ralph Maher, the city of Quincy's former chief plumbing and gas inspector, did not prove that his pension loss of $576,000 constituted an "excessive fine" under the Eighth Amendment, the court ruled.

Maher, with a coworker, broke into the personnel office in City Hall and seized documents criticizing his job performance, hoping for reappointment by the mayor-elect, according to the ruling.

Maher was convicted in March 2002 of breaking and entering, stealing and wanton destruction of property.

The court rejected Maher's claim that he caused "minimal harm" to the city, with the only real financial cost being that of replacing a damaged office door, because, the ruling states, his crimes are punishable by several years in prison.

Even though Maher did not secure reappointment, if he had he would have earned about $175,000 over the mayor's two-year term, the court ruled.

Maher's actions harmed the public trust by undermining public confidence in appointing officials to supervisory positions, according to the ruling.

In affirming the district court ruling, the Supreme Court found that Maher's forfeiture is not "grossly disproportional" to the amount of harm he caused public trust and finances, and therefore not excessive.

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