Former House speaker Salvatore DiMasi will get his $5,000 monthly pension back as he awaits trial on federal corruption charges, a Boston Municipal Court judge has ruled.
The state pension board had revoked the benefits last year after DiMasi was charged with taking $57,000 in alleged bribes, but the judge ruled that the board did not have the authority to take away DiMasi's pension because it had not held a hearing, DiMasi's lawyer said today.
The lawyer, Thomas Kiley of Boston, characterized the ruling as a step in the right direction.
"It's a small measure of vindication," Kiley said in a telephone interview. "The big vindication is when he's cleared of all the charges."
Kiley had argued at a hearing earlier this month before Judge Lawrence McCormick that the state's actions were unjust and effectively rendered his client "guilty until proven innocent."
During the hearing, McCormick foreshadowed his ruling when he called the revocation of DiMasi's benefits without a hearing "offensive."
David R. Marks, an assistant attorney general representing the State Board of Retirement, said at the time that the board was well within its rights to stop the payments, particularly because the alleged offenses directly related to DiMasi's job. In addition, he said, chasing DiMasi for repayment if he is convicted could be difficult.
Today State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who chairs the retirement board, issued a statement saying he still believes the board acted appropriately.
"We are disappointed in the court's decision to overrule our authority," he said in the statement. "We are reviewing the decision in conjunction with the Attorney General's office to determine what legal options are available to the Board."
The retirement board voted last October to suspend pension payments to DiMasi after he and three associates were charged in an alleged bid-rigging scheme for state software contracts that prosecutors say netted DiMasi nearly $60,000.
The state did not hold a hearing, saying it could jeopardize the federal case. DiMasi has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.
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