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Benefits restored for retired officer

By David Rattigan
Globe Correspondent / July 15, 2012
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As work continues on changes in the municipal unemployment system, the retired Lynnfield police officer whose case was the catalyst for change has had his unemployment benefits reinstated.

In late June, the Department of Unemployment Assistance reinstated unemployment benefits for Hartley Boudreau, 70, who filed an unemployment claim in 2011 after being told that because of hours he'd worked, he could no longer work police details for the town without it interfering with his pension. After filing the claim he was awarded the unemployment benefits, in addition to collecting his pension and the $25,000 he had made earlier that year.

Frustrated when the town lost its appeal of that decision, Town Administrator Bill Gustus began an online discussion with financial officials in other communities that led him to write a letter co-signed by 23 others, asking the governor for help and citing unemployment benefits to municipal employees deemed “questionable” and, in one case, defied “the laws of sanity.”

The cases cited in the letter and in subsequent communication between the Department of Unemployment Assistance and municipalities have involved teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, seasonal workers, salaried members of boards and commissions, and police and firefighters.

They also prompted the filing of a bill and creation of the Task Force on Municipalities to review cases and offer solutions, and led the Department of Unemployment Assistance to reopen the Boudreau case. “I can't say I was surprised,’ Gustus said of the decision. “The governor filed a bill to change the law to prevent this from happening. The law has not yet changed, so it doesn't surprise me that they reinstated his unemployment. He's doing what the law allows him to do. . . . We need to get the law changed.”

Meanwhile, the task force, chaired by state labor and workforce development secretary, Joanne Goldstein, and including representatives from municipalities, the Legislature, unions, and taxpayers, has met four times, with another meeting slated July 24. There is no deadline for the task force to issue its recommendations.

David Rattigan can be reached at rattigand@aol.com

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