Boston Official Quits Amid Disabilty Backlog Problems

The Boston Retirement Board today accepted the resignation of its executive officer, who has come under fire for allowing a backlog of nearly 100 pending disability claims for Boston firefighters to pile up on his watch, allowing them to collect tax-free salaries while they await a decision.

The board accepted the retirement of Robert E. Tierney, the executive officer who made it known last week that he is stepping down in three weeks.

The board also took action on several reform measures, including the decision to hire a forensic accountant to look for fraud amid a scandal involving an allegedly disabled bodybuilding firefighter and an FBI probe into widespread disability fraud at the Boston Fire Department.

"Every day we wait, there is the potential for new fraud," said Mitchell Weiss, the mayoral appointee on the board.

The board rejected the accidental disability application for the bodybuilding firefighter, Albert Arroyo, who also lost his job yesterday.

Arroyo had been out on a sick leave after a doctor declared him permanently disabled from an on-the-job injury. But after the Boston Globe reported that Arroyo had competed in a bodybuilding contest in May, Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser on July 21 ordered him back to work. Arroyo has not complied with that order.

Yesterday was the deadline for Arroyo to return to work or face a "voluntary separation" from the department, said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. Arroyo has 10 days to appeal that separation before he is no longer employed by the BFD.

The board in an executive session yesterday voted 4-0 to reject Arroyo's accidental disability application because it was incomplete. "He has not filed a complete application to this pension board and therefore in our opinion there is no application pending," said acting Chairman John J. Perkins.

The board approved the accidental disability applications for six other firefighters.

The Herald reported last week that 96 Boston firefighters have active disability retirement claims pending with the board, including 71 that have been out for more than six months.

Twenty of those cases have languished for 18 months, resulting in some jakes collecting six-figure checks tax-free. The disability application for one of those firefighters, William Hitchcock, was approved yesterday. Hitchcock's application had been pending for at least 18 months while he took home $152,314 in tax-free injury pay and a gross salary of $167,196 in 2007, according to payroll records.

Republished with permission from The Boston Herald