The Massachusetts Court of Appeals today rejected former state Rep. Marie Parente's bid to have her pension increased based on the estimated value of her state-provided parking space on Beacon Hill and her per-diem payments for traveling to and from her home in Milford.
Parente claimed the $1,560 annual value of her parking space and the $7,200 a year she got for travel expenses were part of her "regular compensation" on which the value of her pension should be based - just like William Bulger's housing allowance was used to figure his pension after retiring as president of the University of Massachusetts.
The court, however, said the state Contributory Retirement Appeal Board did not err in ruling that the parking and travel perks were not "remuneration for services actually rendered."
The appeals court said the Bulger case decided by the Supreme Judicial Court was different because both Bulger and university trustees knew Bulger was not actually using the housing allowance for housing - since he continued to live in his longtime South Boston home - but was, in fact, part of his overall compensation package and intended to entice him to stay in the job. That stands in sharp contrast to the per-diem fees paid legislators, the court said:
The annual allowance was developed so that members did not have to pay for those expenses out of their salary. Simply because Parente did not have to prove that she had any expenses in order to receive the annual allowance does not then mean it was intended to be additional compensation for her services. As CRAB reasonably concluded, this simply could mean that the members of the general court were placed on an "honor system" when it came to this annual allowance.