Gov. Charlie Baker has signed off on a controversial bill that allows Braintree’s interim police chief to work full-time and still collect a $116,000 annual pension, a move a top police union official warned could pave a path for more double-dipping.
The bill, approved Friday, has drawn attention in police circles, where Chief Paul Shastany is believed to be the first to earn a pension and work full-time. Now earning $600 a day, the newly enacted law will allow him to work beyond the 120-day cap for retirees for nearly 2 1⁄2 more years, or until he’s 65, while still collecting his $116,110 pension.
Braintree lifted the cap by filing a home-rule petition, which is tailored to the community and Shastany specifically as it tries to recover from an evidence room scandal. But, critics say it offers a blueprint for others.
“There wasn’t enough focus or attention on it,” said James Machado, executive director of the Massachusetts Police Association, which opposed the bill. “It appeared on its face to everybody that it was just a home-rule petition. It’s good for Braintree. It’s just a bad precedent for pensions.
“They set the format. This is how you do it,” Machado added. “Now there’s a pathway.”
Baker’s support for the bill comes as the Swampscott Republican has made pension reform a priority elsewhere at the MBTA. Baker had previously tapped Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, who filed the bill, to serve on a blue ribbon panel tasked in 2015 with identifying issues at the T, which singled out the agency’s pension woes as needing further investigation.
Asked why Baker signed it, a spokesman yesterday said the administration “frequently supports cities and towns on a range of issues important to local communities,” including in the case of Braintree’s home-rule petition, which lawmakers passed earlier this month in sparsely attended informal sessions.
“The circumstances warranted this type of action specific to Braintree at this time,” said Sullivan, who denied it’d become precedent-setting. “Any other community can’t just say, ‘Oh I want to do it, too.’ They have to petition the Legislature and they have to make their case.”