Oak Bluffs finance director Paul Manzi routinely credits his Dukes County pension account with thousands of dollars he receives through special perks awarded to him through his personal service contract, including money for travel and lodging, the Gazette has learned.
Mr. Manzi has a contract with the town that pays him a base salary of $60,000 a year for a part-time position of 20 hours a week. Mr. Manzi ordinarily commutes to the job from his home in Tewksbury two days a week.
His contract stipulates, among other things, that he be present at town hall an average of eight days a month, and that he be paid a stipend of $140 for every day he is on the Vineyard. He is also paid a nightly lodging allowance of $65 that increases to $120 when he is accompanied by his family.
Under the terms of the contract, Mr. Manzi is entitled to just over $1,000 for a two-week period in perks alone if he spends two nights a week on the Island with his family. His regular salary pays him a total of $2,300 every two weeks, bringing his maximum paycheck every other two weeks - including stipends and housing allowances - to just over $3,300.
But records obtained by the Gazette this week from the Dukes County Retirement Board show that Mr. Manzi routinely lists his overall compensation package for a two-week period at over $4,000. The records show at least one two-week period when he received over $5,400.
Reached by telephone yesterday, Mr. Manzi defended the amounts. He said he does not submit expense reports every pay period and will often go several months before he has a chance to tabulate expenses and submit them to the retirement board.
But the more pressing question centers on whether Mr. Manzi is allowed to credit his pension fund with additional expenses and perks paid to him by the town.
The pension question has made headlines in the regional print press in recent months as three retired lawmakers sought higher pension payments from the state, based on a court ruling last year that allowed former Senate president William M. Bulger to include the housing allowance he received when he was president of the University of Massachusetts as part of his pension calculation.
The state retirement board is scheduled to vote next week on whether former state Reps. Marie J. Parente, Susan W. Pope, and Thomas N. George should be allowed to include perks such as parking spaces, office stipends and travel expenses as part of their income for the purpose of pension calculations.
Pensions are based on an employee's age, years of service, and salary during the three highest-earning years.
Concerned about the implications of the Bulger lawsuit, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill has been working to narrowly define compensation as salary, not fringe benefits. Mr. Cahill has said officials do not make pension contributions on their perks, as they do on salaries, so they should not ask the pension system to pay them returns on money it never had a chance to invest.
But Mr. Manzi does in fact make contributions to his pension based on perks, although the finance director said yesterday that his situation is different.
Mr. Manzi said he uses his daily stipend of $140 to pay for things like the ferry, gas and parking. He said because he receives his stipend on a regular basis, it is classified under Massachusetts General Laws as a regular recurring compensation.
He also cited a state law which he said allows him to apply his regular recurring compensation to his pension account.
"I hope people understand the issue being debated at [the state level] is totally different from my situation. I receive a recurring payment through my contract. Those [state officials] are trying to change their pension calculation after the fact," Mr. Manzi said.
But Noreen Mavro Flanders, the county treasurer and administrator of the retirement board, said Mr. Manzi never consulted her or other county officials about whether he could credit his pension fund with his additional perks.
Mr. Manzi said he began to apply his perks toward his pension calculation after receiving information from the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC), the panel that oversees and regulates state pension systems.
Mr. Manzi said he has worked for retirement boards before, and felt he was qualified to make the determination without a formal legal opinion from the Dukes County Retirement Board or PERAC.
And while Ms. Flanders reserved judgment on Mr. Manzi's practice, she did say that the payroll sheets submitted to the retirement board by Mr. Manzi do not include a breakdown of his various sources of income, making it difficult to tell what was his regular salary and what he received in perks.
"All other employees provide a detailed account of payments they received other than their regular pay rate - that would include things like overtime and expenses. That has not been the case with [Mr. Manzi]," she said.
Ms. Flanders said she had spoken with Mr. Manzi this week and asked him to submit more detailed payroll records in the future.
Mr. Manzi said he keeps detailed payroll warrants and backup documentation dating back several years, and is prepared to provide Ms. Flanders and the retirement board with whatever records they require.