A retirement board seeks to appeal a judge’s recent decision to restore the state pension of a Haverhill man, convicted of enriching himself through his position at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Haverhill District Court Judge Stephen S. Abany ruled Nov. 16 Joseph Giordano should not have been stripped of his $71,000 annual retirement pension, calling the punishment by the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System “excessive.” An attorney for the retirement board said the agency hopes to appeal the decision.
“We are seeking permission from the Attorney General’s office to appeal to Superior Court,” James H. Salvie, general counsel, told WHAV this morning. He explained the agency requires permission from Attorney General Maura Healey before it may appeal. “Beyond that, I’d rather not comment on pending litigation, and the decision makes our position clear in any event.”
“This is a sad tale where a bit of greed has had catastrophic circumstances,” Abany conceded.
Giordano, 70, was coordinator of community education at Whittier Vo-Tech. He pleaded guilty in federal court seven years ago to “making false or fraudulent statements.” He created a phony company, MDG Education, charged Whittier for services and then approved payments to himself, court records show. The scheme took place just before his 2004 retirement.
“The services supposedly provided by MDG were services that Giordano typically performed in the course of his usual duties for Whittier. Giordano, through MDG, billed Whittier at a higher rate than Whittier would have paid for faculty enrichment courses had there been no MDG involvement,” state Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha said in 2009.
In a plea agreement, Giordano agreed to pay back $15,049 he received, pay a $10,000 and agree to a three-year probation period. Because of an oversight, he was not immediately stripped of his pension and collected $357,597 in payments after his conviction. The retirement board cited state law in ceasing payments and demanding return of previous amounts.
Abany ruled in Giordano’s favor, citing a recent state Supreme Judicial Court decision that such fines are “excessive” under the eight amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Weighing all appropriate factors, the forfeiture of Giordano’s future pension payments and past pension payments would constitute an excessive fine,” Abany decided.