By Sue Ellen Woodcock
After months of litigation an East Boston judge has ruled that former Police Chief Angelo LaMonica has a right to his pension from the Town of Winthrop.
The Retirement Board took away LaMonica’s pension earlier in 2016 due to charges against him. According to Massachusetts General Law, a public official will lose their pension if they break the law on the job.
Winthrop’s former police chief stepped down abruptly during a federal probe two decades ago in 1995. He was accused by prosecutors of allegedly taking bribes to ignore illegal gambling activity at private establishments in Winthrop. On Nov. 29, 1995 the Winthrop Retirement Board retained the law firm of Murphy, Lamer, and Murphy to determine if the pension was forfeitable under Massachusetts law. Attorney Michele McNulty of the law firm wrote an opinion that LaMonica’s pension could not be forfeited because at the time he was not convicted of any criminal conduct related to his employment as the police chief. The board sought another legal opinion in 2002 and hired attorney Michael Sacco, who represents retirement boards all over the state. Sacco reported in January 2003 to the board that LaMonica’s pension could not be forfeited. In a strange twist, Sacco became the hearing officer appointed by the Retirement Board, and ultimately wrote an opinion to take away the pension. This past spring the Retirement Board’s, which met several times on the matter, decision had concluded that based upon the dismissed indictment there was a direct link between the charges and Chief LaMonica’s office as chief of the Winthrop Police Department. A May 24 letter, the board demanded that LaMonica repay the retirement system $882,052 for the amount paid to him from 1995-2016.
LaMonica did plead guilty for filing six false tax returns. He was incarcerated for 14 months and fined $20,000.
Also in 1995 LaMonica began receiving his pension from the Town. Over the 20 years of retirement LaMonica received $964,333 in pension benefits, or $3,600 a month. With this latest ruling LaMonica will receive his pension retroactively to earlier this year, about $28,800.
Lamonica and his attorney James Cipoletta filed a petition on May 31, 2016.
“We’ll determine after January 1 other remedies against the board,” Cipoletta said. He noted that the Town can appeal but the Town still has to pay. “The taxpayers should be outraged by the amount of money thrown at this case.”
Judge John E. McDonald Jr., first justice of East Boston Division of the Boston Municipal Court, ordered that the pension be restored to its full force immediately. Also that payments on the pension be retroactive paid in a lump sum, and other benefits (such as medical) also be paid.
An attempt to reach Michael Sacco, attorney for the Winthrop Retirement Board, was made but no call was returned. The Town Manager is away for the holiday season.