- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - The state’s highest court ruled Thursday that former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi is entitled to the money he contributed into the state’s retirement system, plus interest, before his conviction on corruption charges.

But the Supreme Judicial Court rejected arguments from DiMasi’s attorneys that he should have continued to receive his state pension from the time he was sentenced in 2011 until all his appeals were exhausted in 2014.

The justices said that would go against the intent of the state Legislature and lead to “absurd results.”

“Such a reading would encourage frivolous appeals and delaying tactics so that a member who has been convicted of a criminal offense involving a violation of the laws applicable to his or her office or position could continue to receive a retirement allowance for as long as possible,” the seven-member court wrote in its decision.

The justices, however, said the state retirement board was wrong to withhold from the Boston Democrat the $127,000 he paid into the pension system during his time as a lawmaker. The money must now be repaid to DiMasi with interest.

Tom Kiley, DiMasi’s attorney, said it was “small comfort” to his client that he would be receiving the employee contributions.

Nick Favorito, executive director of the State Retirement Board, said Thursday’s ruling raises questions.

“There have been a number of recent court decisions, including this one, that have made it more challenging for retirement boards to work with pension forfeiture matters and apply consistent standards,” Favorito said.

He said the board will need to work with lawmakers and others to help clarify existing public pension laws.

DiMasi, 70, is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence. Prosecutors said the Democrat used his political clout to steer state contracts to a software company in exchange for payments totaling $65,000. The state retirement board revoked his nearly $5,000 monthly pension after his conviction.

DiMasi is scheduled to be released from prison in 2018.

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