Baker misses point on working chief’s pension (Editorial)

Governor Charlie Baker had his reasons for signing off on a law that allows Braintree police chief Paul Shastany to work full-time while simultaneously collecting a $116,000 pension.

But the governor overlooked the most important fact in the case. It’s wrong. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as that.

Shastany had retired as Stoughton’s police chief when, in 2016, Braintree officials chose him to take over a department wracked by missing cash and drugs in its evidence room. Citing how local decisions should be handled locally, and how Braintree officials were unanimous in support, Baker defended a law he signed earlier this month that allows such an exemption.

Baker said Braintree was going through a difficult, transitional time, making it important to deal promptly with leadership in law enforcement. “It’s obviously a temporary move for the town,” he said.

Less obvious is what this could mean as a precedent. “This could allow someone to go next door, retire from one community and go to the next. The pension system is left with the burden of paying a pension of someone who is working,” said James Machado, executive director of the Massachusetts Police Association.

Machado is right. No pension system is designed as a hefty second paycheck for someone working a full-time job in the same field.

If Shastany’s situation is indeed temporary and designed to pull Braintree through a difficult time, the pension system will survive. But these laws and exemptions have a way of taking on new lives of their own, making Machado’s warnings of future double payments worth hearing.

Baker does not sound concerned about that. He should be. A police chief is collecting a retirement pension, but he’s also working full-time as a police chief.

How is that not fundamentally wrong?

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