5 Investigates has uncovered an insider deal quietly handed to a connected official which gave him a big pay hike and an even bigger boost to his pension.
It is a controversial arrangement which some argue provides a legitimate benefit to cities and towns but others call an old fashioned sweetheart deal.
Lt. Colonel Brian Perrin hops into his take-home state car and heads to the office as the No. 2 man in charge of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
It’s a job Perrin landed in 2015 thanks to his political connections and a little-known state law that dates back to the 1970’s.
“This is a sweetheart deal because it’s going to allow a person to boom his pension up effectively to the maximum,” said Gregory Sullivan, research director of the Pioneer Institute, a government watchdog group, who previously served as State Inspector General.
Documents obtained by 5 Investigates show the town of Winthrop, where Perrin worked as a police officer for 25 years, granted him a four-year leave of absence so he could take the job as lieutenant colonel at the environmental police.
That deal resulted in a $33,000-a-year bump in pay for Perrin — from $85,581 to $119,060 — that will substantially increase his pension, which is based on his three highest consecutive years of qualified earnings.
The leave of absence also guarantees Perrin can eventually return to his civil service job in the Winthrop Police Department to reach the 32 years of service he will need to maximize his pension.
“What I don’t like is the effect where the state taxpayers get stuck with a bill for $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 going forward that gets tagged onto our massive pension deficit,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think it was the Legislature’s intent for someone to leave the protected civil service system and all its regulations and just escape out for a few years, boost their pension, and then be able to re-enter.”
Sullivan called Perrin’s deal an abuse of the system that will leave taxpayers footing the bill. “This is an example of the system being manipulated,” he said.
Winthrop police Chief Terry Delehanty and the town manager signed off on Perrin’s leave of absence.
5 Investigates asked Delehanty if the deal will benefit the town of Winthrop as well as Perrin. “I think it benefits Brian Perrin in several senses, not just financially but also career growth. It benefits the department here because we have a very good liaison in the environmental police.”
Perrin is well connected in Winthrop. He’s a member of the retirement board, the school committee and has his own law practice there.
He was appointed to the position of deputy director of the environmental police by Col. James McGinn, a former state police sergeant who was Governor Charlie Baker’s campaign driver.
McGinn and Perrin head up a police force that 5 investigates exposed as a department lacking accountability, with many officers spending hours at home during their regular shifts and others allowed to work lucrative paid details in the middle of their normal workdays.
When 5 Investigates tracked down Perrin to ask about the deal he greeted us with a smile and handshake.
5 Investigates asked him if the thought he was taking advantage of the system.
“Absolutely not,” Perrin said. “I’m just trying to become the best police leader I can be and I bring 28 years of experience to the Massachusetts Environmental Police.”
But other people don’t see it that way. A person familiar with how the environmental police operate spoke to 5 Investigates under a condition of anonymity.
“The department needs qualified people at the top level to make good executive decisions, and not political hacks,” the person said, claiming the environment police department violated its own policy by not filling Perrin’s job from within the ranks.
A spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs cited state law, which said it’s up to the director of the department, in this case McGinn, to choose the second in command.
“It’s ethically wrong,” said the person familiar with the department. “He got there because of Col. James McGinn. He handed his friend a job and demoted somebody to do it. It’s not right.”
In his letter requesting the leave of absence, Perrin said the state job will allow him to return to Winthrop with greater depth, experience and abilities.
“Underneath it is a mechanism to boost this person’s pension through political connections,” said Sullivan.
Said Perrin: “It’s not a sweetheart deal. I acted and conformed with the law.”
The state law which allows the granting of leaves of absence from civil service jobs was passed in 1978. For a leave to be granted, all that is required is the approval of the appointing authority, which in this case is the town of Winthrop.
The state Human Resources Division oversees the leave of absence process. 5 Investigates asked the division for data that would show the lengths of leaves and how they are being used across the state, but the department said it does not keep that data.