The former town official for two North Shore communities who pleaded guilty to corruption charges must forfeit his $1.5 million pension under state law that sanctions government employees convicted of crimes related to their public sector jobs, the state Appeals Court ruled Friday.
The decision involving Andrew Bisignani was the largest amount lost by a public employee under the law that has also been applied against Jackie Bulger, brother of convicted killer James “Whitey” Bulger and two former House speakers, Salvatore DiMasi and Thomas Finneran.
In an 18-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the second highest state court said Bisignani plead guilty to 12 counts, eight of which directly related to his role as top procurement official in the towns of Saugus and Nahant where he worked between 2009 and 2014.
“The amount of the forfeiture is substantial, so too is the gravity of Bisignani’s offenses and the degree of his culpability,” Judge Amy Lyn Blake wrote for the panel. “Bisignani’s crimes involved a significant breach of the public trust, striking at the core of the ethical responsibilities of his positions.”
According to Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office, Bisignani plead guilty in 2017 to procurement fraud, destroying public records, municipal bid-rigging among other charges. He was sentenced to six months home confinement and fined $60,000. He also plead guilty to federal charges for underreporting his income by $375,000.
Since his convictions, Bisignani has recouped about $150,000 he contributed to the pension funds during his career, but has been blocked from collecting what would be a $6,425 monthly pension by the Saugus Retirement Board, a view that is now affirmed by three courts, including Friday’s ruling against him.
The Appeals Court noted that the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in other cases to allow a public employee to collect a portion of their pension. But the SJC left the “all or nothing” rule in existing law in place, and urged the Legislature to make any changes. While a Legislative study committee recommended changes, the law has not been amended.
“[T]he bill never became law,” Blake wrote. “Accordingly, as Bisignani acknowledges, we must apply...‘all or nothing’ approach to his circumstances.”
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.