On September 6, 2022, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision in Mahan v. Boston Retirement Board, No. 13208 (2022), holding that the pension forfeiture provisions of G.L. c. 32, § 15(3) and (4) apply to an individual whose criminal activity occurs after the individual has retired from public service. The SJC’s conclusion means that criminal convictions involving an employee’s misappropriation of public funds and/or violation of the laws that apply to his office/position can result in the forfeiture of retirement benefits regardless of whether the individual is an active public employee at the time of the offense.
Mahan was a correction officer who, in August of 2000, sustained a knee injury while attempting to restrain an inmate involved in a fight. As a result of his injury, Mahan was initially unable to work and received accidental disability retirement effective in November 2003. Between 2003 and 2013, Mahan received a combination of workers’ compensation benefits, assault pay, and a disability retirement allowance. To demonstrate continued eligibility for the workers’ compensation benefits, Mahan certified every six months that he was not working. However, beginning in 2006, after his retirement and while completing certifications and collecting the benefits, he worked at a car dealership owned by his wife. After pleading guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of larceny, Mahan was ordered to pay over $300,000 in restitution to his former employer. Because of Mahan’s criminal convictions, the Boston Retirement Board then voted to revoke his retirement benefits pursuant to c. 32, § 15(3) and (4). Mahan appealed the decision, arguing that these sections did not apply to him since he did not commit his crimes until after he was retired and receiving benefits.
G.L. c. 32, § 15(3) stipulates that any “member” of the retirement system convicted of a criminal offense involving the funds of their public employer shall be ineligible to receive a retirement allowance until full restitution is made. § 15(4) makes any “member” convicted of a crime tied to their public office permanently ineligible for a retirement allowance. The SJC noted that G.L. c. 32, § 3 defines “member” to include both those who are currently employed as “members in service” and those who are “inactive” because they have retired and are receiving benefits. Consequently, the SJC concluded that the two forfeiture provisions apply to individuals who commit certain crimes after retirement as well as those who commit these crimes while actively serving as public employees.
The Mahan decision is important because it clarifies that retirees who commit crimes that fit the criteria in § 15 can forfeit their pension as a result, even if the criminal conduct did not occur until after retirement.
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This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.