Retired Lynnfield Officer Back In News Over Benefits
Boston Herald calls retired officer Hartley Boudreau "Poster Boy" for questionable municipal unemployment claims.
A Saturday Boston Herald report says that retired Lynnfield police officer Hartley Boudreau has had his controversial unemploymenent benefits reinstated by the Mass. Department of Unemployment Assistance. The report even refers to him as a "Jobless Claim 'Poster Boy,'" stemming from the late February selectmen's meeting when Town Administrator Bill Gustus said he had written to the state seeking help with the financial burdens towns sustain from dubious unemployment claims by municipal workers.
Gustus was quoted in this Herald report as saying that "This is allowed under the current law. That’s why we asked them to change the law... We’re disappointed, but I’m not surprised." For his part, Boudreau told the Herald that he knew the matter would be resolved in his favor because he did nothing wrong, had no untoward intent in the matter, and simply "wasn't allowed to work."
As noted back in February, the current system apparently allows a retired officer to earn as much as $25,000 per year in detail work, etc., while also earning a pension. Having met that ceiling, Boudreau filed for unemployment.
Boudreau Just One Of Many, Hardly A 'Poster Boy'
While Boudreau has found himself in the unfortunate position of being branded a "Poster Boy" by a major regional media outlet though, he is hardly the only municipal retiree or employee in Lynnfield or elsewhere, to receive benefits under the current system.
For example, in early March, Gustus told Lynnfield Patch that several town bus drivers had filed for unemployment benefits in the past because it was summer vacation. Other towns have apparently had teachers file for unemployment when summer vacation began or had firefighters file for benefits after going from full-time to call status.
Benefits For Bus Drivers, Teachers, Took A Bite
In mid-March, Gustus provided a rundown of exactly how much the town has spent on the various unemployment claims that fall under the previously mentioned categories. At the time, Boudreau had received about $9,500, but the town also spent almost $68,000 on benefits for bus drivers over summer vacations, more than $22,000 on benefits for part-time teachers who had lost part-time jobs elsewhere, more than $10,000 on teachers who filed for benefits during the summer (even though they are typically contracted through August), and about $6,800 for a school secretary who had resigned but apparently had unemployment benefits approved anyhow. The previously mentioned sum spent on teachers' benefits did not include an additional $1,800 provided to a long-term substitute who also filed a claim during the summer. The grand total of all of these claims for Lynnfield was $120,480.22, said Gustus at the time.
Gustus also estimated this spring that if the state reformed its unemployment criteria, Lynnfield alone could save $40,000 per year based on its costs over the last three years. The Lynnfield town administrator led a group of 23 colleagues from other towns in drafting a letter to Governor Deval Patrick requesting help on the matter. "This places communities in an impossible situation," Gustus wrote in the letter to the governor.
Legislation Still Pending From Patrick, GOP Lawmakers
Patrick did file a piece of legislation in response to the problem, although critics at the time said it did not go nearly far enough. Legislation was also filed by state Republican lawmakers, although it appears that the Byzantine nature of the state bureaucracy will require action at both the regulatory and the legislative level to truly address this matter.
"While at first glance it does not appear that anything illegal was done, it is abundantly clear that there are some gaping holes in what the intention was of the public policy versus what the law allows," said Rep. Brad Jones, the House Republican Leader who represents Lynnfield, in a statement back in March.