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State Knocked on Delayed Payment to Disgraced Pol

BOSTON (CN) — Though a criminal conviction forfeited his retirement allowance, a disgraced Massachusetts politician is entitled to recover the $127,000 he contributed to that plan, the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled.

After he was implicated in a pay-to-play corruption scheme with state technology contracts, Sal DiMasi became the third consecutive speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives indicted in 2009.

In between his resignation that January and his July indictment, however, DiMasi had begun collecting monthly retirement benefits from the state.

The courts would not let the state retirement board put those payments on ice until after DiMasi was convicted and sentenced in 2011 to eight years in prison.

Though the board ultimately concluded that DiMasi's sentencing triggered the pension-forfeiture process, it said he was entitled to the return of his accumulated deductions, without interest.

DiMasi challenged the holding in court, saying his conviction should not be considered final until he exhausted his appeals.

Though DiMasi's appeals finally were exhausted in 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said last week that the sentencing date was the correct "final" date.

"Had the Legislature intended that pension forfeiture not occur until the conclusion of the appellate process in the criminal case, it easily could have included language to that effect in the relevant statutory provisions," the April 21 ruling by Justice Francis Spina states.

DiMasi did persuade the court, however, that he is entitled to interest on the employee contributions he made to his retirement plan.

At the time of his retirement, DiMasi's "annuity savings account contained $155,155.20, consisting of $127,010.05 in employee contributions and $28,145.15 in interest through the year 2008," the ruling states.

Spina said DiMasi is entitled to interest, on top of the $127,000 and change, but only since September 2011.

The interest stems from the board's continued withholding of DiMasi's accumulated total deductions when it should have returned the funds after his sentencing.

"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," Spina wrote.

DiMasi had been the commonwealth's first Italian-American in its history to serve as speaker.

He began his public-service career as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County from 1974 to 1976. In 1979 he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served for over 30 years, rising to the speaker's chair in 2004.

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