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State Treasurer Timothy Cahill is defending his support for an enhanced pension for one of his long-time political supporters, in response to a Boston Globe report Wednesday. The report says that when Cahill headed the Norfolk County Retirement Board, he approved an enhanced hazardous-duty pension for former sheriff's office administrator Josephine Shea, a Cahill fundraiser.
Josephine Shea was 49 when she retired in 2000. She receives a $47,000-a-year pension, plus health insurance, which is higher than the type of pensions typical for her post.
Delores Handy: Why did you support Josephine Shea's higher pension?
Timothy Cahill: Well, the reality of the case, Delores, was that we voted to approve Mrs. Shea's pension as a whole, along with 16 other individuals who were retiring that month. There was no classification attached to the pension and we were sending that pension up the street to PERAC (Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission), who oversees all of our decisions.
Having said that, Mrs. Shea fulfilled all the qualifications for care and custody, and her title — and many of the titles that she had over the years that she worked at the jail — qualified her for group 4 pension, because she had oversight in what's called care and custody, as a deputy superintendent, as a superintendent, as a special sheriff and as an acting sheriff.
What is PERAC?
PERAC is the agency, the commission that oversees all state pensions. And they either approve or disapprove of the decisions of the local pension board. So if we had done this in error — given Mrs. Shea something that she didn't deserve, or with anyone else — they would have overruled it. In this case, we followed all the rules, our staff followed all the rules.
Mrs. Shea started working at the jail when I was still in elementary school. She didn't get her job because of me, she didn't get her promotions because of me, she didn't get her retirement because of me. She would have qualified for it no matter who was the state treasurer, or who the county treasurer was, so. I'm kind of offended by the insinuation that all people associated with me get special treatment.
You voted on this, I understand, with a group of other recommendations for pensions.
Are you saying you didn't realize that she was in this group when you voted for it? It was just a group of pensions you voted on?
To be honest I don't remember. I don't remember, because we met every month for six years. What I will tell you is that in the board minutes that have her name on it, there is no mention of the group classification because it is not something that we as a board decided.
As I understand it, the reporting on this is that she also was on the board.
I don't know whether she excused herself from that particular vote, but there was never an actual vote. It was just an administrative move from one branch to the other branch, and ultimately it was verified by the branch that oversees us.
Let's talk about her relationship with you. I understand she's a long-time supporter, a member of your inner financial team. Can you define that relationship?
She has been a supporter for a long time. I have no inner financial team. And she contributes financially, and has in the past, but also in terms of helping me with the rudimentary parts of getting elected. But she has not gotten anything over and above that based on our relationship.
Pension reform is a big issue under consideration on Beacon Hill right now. Do you agree that this is the kind of reform that needs to be done?
Well, I think that there is a reason for group 4 pension, where people are in dangerous jobs. I do support it. Could group 4 be tightened up in this ethics reform? Absolutely, it can be tightened up.
This is a serious time for these types of questions to be coming forward. What do you say to people who say these reports smell bad for the treasurer, and how can they be assured that the state retirement board dealings are all handled properly?
Well, what I say is, our books are open. And I can assure you that anyone that got business in the state of Massachusetts had to earn it. We do everything above board here in the treasury, always have and always will.
This program aired on June 10, 2009.
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