Town Council still struggling to resolve pension overpayments

Town Council still struggling to resolve pension overpayments

SCITUATE - The Town Council has taken no action on the thorny question of what to do about the apparent over-payment of pensions - perhaps as much as $750,000 - to two former ranking police officers who came back to work for the town after they retired.

The council met in closed executive session after the May 8 meeting, but reached no decision on a course of action, Town Solicitor David M. D'Agostino reported.

Richard Tucker, a retired police captain, and Ken Gaffney, a retired police sergeant, continued to collect their police pension benefits at the same time they received salaries as town employees for a number of years. Tucker worked as emergency management director and assistant highway director; Gaffney was a computer technician. Both resigned their civilian jobs when told their pension benefits would be discontinued.

According to the town Police Pension Committee and Town Treasurer Sharon Johnson, it is a violation of the town's police retirement plan to collect pensions while working for the town.

With assets of about $4 million, the police pension fund is almost 30 percent funded, with the town making at least the annual state-mandated contribution each of the last two years. Johnson and the pension committee members have warned that, if the overpayments are not recouped, the town will have to considerably increase its annual contributions to the pension plan to keep it solvent.

Council President Charles A. Collins Jr., former deputy police chief, and former treasurer Ted Przybyla who was in office at the time of the alleged violations, have both told The Valley Breeze & Observer that they did not realize there was anything wrong with working for the town while collecting town-funded pensions.

The $750,000 in disputed funds is an estimate from Johnson and the pension committee, but Collins has questioned its accuracy.

The pension committee turned over the matter to the Town Council in November because, committee members said, they do not have the authority to, for instance, mount a legal fight to recover the funds, but the council does have that power.

There are currently 16 retired police officers receiving pensions and 17 active officers still working. Members of the police pension panel are Johnson, Councilmen William Hurry Jr. and David Hanna Jr., and citizens Don Delaere and Eric Rollinson.