Former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi asked the state Board of Retirement on Wednesday to reinstate his $5,000-a-month pension, despite concerns from federal prosecutors that holding a supposedly mandatory hearing on his request could damage their pending corruption case against him.
The Boston Democrat and his attorney, Thomas Kiley, said after their hourlong meeting that the board's decision last month to suspend the payment was creating a financial hardship for DiMasi. They also said that delaying a hearing on the validity of that suspension - as acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks has requested - would deny DiMasi his due process rights.
Loucks said last month in a letter to Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who oversees the board, that forging ahead with the hearing will allow DiMasi to gather evidence that could undercut the prosecution of his bid-rigging case. The acting U.S. attorney asked that it be delayed until after his staff concludes the criminal case against DiMasi, a delay that could stretch for months.
The board did not immediately rule on the request. Instead, Kiley said, it sought formal memos by late next month and tentatively scheduled a discussion of the request for September.
A Cahill spokeswoman said the state has previously suspended payments pending criminal cases involving Jack Bulger, the brother of former Senate President William Bulger, former House Speaker Thomas Finneran and former Sen. James Marzilli.
Cahill spokeswoman Amy Birmingham also raised the specter of a similar delay for DiMasi, saying in a statement: "The actions of the State Retirement Board did not impede the federal case. It became clear that Mr. DiMasi's attorney clearly was going to use our proceedings to get information he would not be allowed under a federal rules of criminal procedure."
Kiley said in an interview with The Associated Press that he is entitled to call witnesses and ask questions of them during a suspension hearing, just as if he were in a court of law.
DiMasi, breaking his silence on the case, interjected, "It's called 'due process.' We have a constitutional due process right."
Kiley added: "To the extent that Loucks or anybody else wants to interfere with it, that's a denial of our civil rights."
DiMasi himself spoke up again, saying, "What we're saying is, if you don't want to give us the right of a hearing, then you can't suspend the pension."
Asked if the suspension was straining his finances, DiMasi said, "Absolutely. Of course it does. I have two kids at home."
He was accompanied to the hearing by his wife, Debbie.
DiMasi and three associates are charged in an alleged bid-rigging scheme for a state software contract that prosecutors say netted the former speaker $57,000. He stepped down from office in January.
The board decided to suspend his pension after DiMasi was indicted in early June because, it said, the case may involve misappropriation of state funds. Kiley has argued there was no misappropriation, and that DiMasi is entitled to his pension because he is presumed innocent of the charges.
This program aired on July 22, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.