Gaming public pensions

Most government employees are different than you and me. They have more job security, better health care plans, and most of all, most enjoy defined benefit pensions, guaranteed by the government's ability to take money away from us and give it to them. They are protected from many of the risks ordinary Americans face.

In far too many cases, public employees game their pensions, running up their retirement pay. Sean P. Murphy of the Boston Globe provides a particularly venal example:

John A. Brennan Jr. won plaudits when he resigned after 19 years of service as a member of the Malden Public Library Board of Trustees, a volunteer seat he held despite his busy career as one of Beacon Hill's most influential lobbyists.

But a closer look at the record shows that Brennan, a 63-year-old former state senator who departed the Legislature in 1990, barely attended monthly library board meetings during the last four years, missing 30 out of 36 meetings.

His application for retirement benefits last December may explain why he hung onto the post for so long. An obscure 1998 legislative amendment that originated among Brennan's former Senate colleagues allowed him to fold the years he volunteered on the Malden library board into his pension calculation, doubling his taxpayer-supported pension.

Instead of receiving $19,097 a year in retirement based on 16 years as a full-time legislator in the 1970s and 1980s, he will receive a $41,088 annual pension for the combination of his legislative and library service, according to estimates based on his retirement application.

The Malden Public Library is actually a private corporation receiving government money. Apparentl;y that is enough to make it qualify to fatten Brennan's retirement pay. The main building of the Malden Library, the Converse Memorial Library, is a 19th century architectural masterpiece designed by H.H. Richardson. The main reading room is a polace of extraordinary beauty. How sad to see the library used to exploit Massachusetts taxpayers.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky