Mayor’s pension case going before Connecticut Supreme Court

(WTNH/ RJ Tattersall)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Joseph Maturo Jr.’s fight to be paid his East Haven firefighter’s pension while also receiving a salary as the same town’s mayor — a practice known as “double dipping” — is headed to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Officials with the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System terminated his $40,000-a-year pension in 2011, saying state law prohibited him from collecting the pension while serving and getting paid as mayor. Maturo appealed, saying the law allows him to collect the pension because the mayor’s job is not a part of the Municipal Employees Retirement System like the firefighter’s position was.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case Thursday.

Maturo, who makes nearly $90,000 a year as mayor, did not return messages seeking comment about the pension case. He’s seeking to have his pension reinstated retroactively to 2011.

FIRST MAYORAL STINT

The 65-year-old Republican was a town firefighter from 1973 to 1991, when he retired involuntarily due to a back injury and began receiving his pension. He continued receiving the pension when he first served as mayor from 1997 to 2007. He left office after losing his re-election bid.

In 2010, an official with the Municipal Employees Retirement System sent Maturo a letter saying that if he became mayor again, state law would in 2011 prohibit him from continuing to receive his pension. The official said Maturo had been allowed to receive the pension when he first was mayor because of an “erroneous interpretation” of the law.

Retirement system officials didn’t return messages seeking comment.

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SECOND MAYORAL STINT

Maturo was re-elected mayor in 2011. Ten days after the election, his pension was terminated. The State Employees Retirement Commission and a Superior Court judge later upheld the decision to end Maturo’s pension, and he appealed to the Supreme Court.

In 2013, the state legislature passed a bill that would have allowed Maturo to receive his pension while serving as mayor. Republican lawmakers said the proposal would have clarified that state law allows retired town workers to collect pensions while serving in the same town in a new job that was not part of the Municipal Employees Retirement System.

But Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed the bill, saying it would be burdensome for municipalities and was not consistent with the purposes of the municipal retirement system.

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APPEAL

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Maturo’s lawyer, Lawrence Sgrignari, claims Malloy’s veto was a political move aimed at Maturo, which the governor’s office denied. Sgrignari also said he looked at records of the Municipal Employees Retirement System from 1990 to 2012 and found only one other person whose pension the system sought to terminate.

“We’ve maintained the prior interpretation of the statute was the correct one and we hope the court sees that as the correct interpretation,” Sgrignari said.

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