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]Ex-Connecticut Legislators Snag Lucrative State Jobs And Find 4-Year Path To Comfort
By DAVE ALTIMARI and JON LENDER | The Hartford Courant
March 29, 2009
After eight terms as a state senator from Fairfield County, Frederick "Ted" Lovegrove didn't seek re-election in 1998 after Republicans asked him to step aside for the son of longtime Congressman Stewart McKinney.
Party leaders wanted John McKinney to take over the 28th Senate District seat. But Lovegrove had been a good Republican soldier, fighting hard for then-Gov. John Rowland, so while he left behind the legislature and his $19,300 salary, he didn't retire from state service.
Instead, he was given a job at the Department of Revenue Services, and his salary jumped to more than $113,000 a year, state records show. He stayed there for four years, finally retiring to his chicken farm in Fairfield in 2002 — with a $62,856 a year pension.
Lovegrove is among a number of state legislators who have either lost or given up their legislative positions only to get state jobs that significantly boosted their pensions, according to state payroll records.
Since 1992, an average of two legislators a year have left their political careers for other state jobs. Some are now earning nearly $100,000 in state pensions; at least 10 are still working for the state. For every longtime lawmaker who took on a high-profile, lucrative state job, such as former state House Republican leader Robert Ward, who is now Gov. M. Jodi Rell's appointee as commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, there are others who slipped quietly into state service.
Once they're in, they pile up money quickly so they can retire with pensions six and seven times higher than what their legislative pensions would have afforded them. It provides them pensions — based on their three highest earnings years — on par with or richer than those of people who toiled for the state for 30 and 40 years.
One such longtime employee was Robert Juliano, who worked for 42 years at the Department of Transportation, 13 as chief administrator at Bradley International Airport, before he died while still on the job. He was such a revered figure at DOT that in 2003 the department unveiled a permanent Robert F. Juliano Memorial for placement in the new airport terminal.
"I guess people can find all sorts of angles, and [legislators] know how to work them," said Nancy Juliano, Robert's wife, who gets a pension of $60,188, according to state records.
"The state is very generous, and evidently [legislators have] wrangled more money for themselves," she said.
Legislators, it seemed, were ready to wrangle some more money out of the state retirement system for former House Speaker James Amann, who retired in January after 22 years as a state representative. His replacement, House Speaker Christopher Donovan, tried to hire Amann as a $120,000-a-year adviser. The most Amann ever made as a legislator was $38,000.
A public outcry about the patronage job forced Donovan to quickly rescind the job offer — but if Amann had gotten the job and held it for three years, his pension would have increased dramatically.
Eight years earlier, former state Rep. Richard Tulisano, D- Rocky Hill, did what Amann tried to do: land a high-paying Democratic legislative staff job after retiring as a lawmaker.
Tulisano, although prominent in the legislature, had a relatively modest local law practice during his 26 years in the state legislature starting in 1975. He made about $31,000 a year in the General Assembly until he decided not to seek re-election in November 2000.
That span of state service would have yielded him a pension of around $16,000 annually — but all of that changed when he started getting big money from the state in early 2001 upon being named chief of staff for House Speaker Moira Lyons.
Tulisano's annual earnings from 2001 to 2004 ranged from $123,000 to more than $155,000. The state figures a pension by averaging the salaries in an employee's three highest-earning 12-month periods — they need not be consecutive — and multiplying that by 2 percent per year of service. For him, that was about 62 percent of more than $135,000. So his annual pension would have been $84,000 — except that he took the "spousal option."
That option, which reduces the total pension, allows a retiring employee to make sure that, after his death, his spouse will continue getting the pension. Since Tulisano's death 13 months ago, his widow has been receiving pension payments at the rate of $75,720 a year.
Tulisano's case illustrates another subtle wrinkle among the elaborate rules of the state pension system. If an employee's salary increases drastically from one year to the next — as Tulisano's did in going from $31,166 in 2000 to $123,042 in 2001 — he or she cannot count the full amount of the higher figure in averaging the top three years of his salary, but he can count the next three years in full.
Tulisano worked four years after leaving the legislature, so the first year or so acted as a "buffer" before his highest-earning final years.
Janet Polinsky is another former lawmaker who spent the last four years of her state career in high-paying, politically appointed positions in the state government.
After serving 16 years as a Democratic state representative from Waterford, she did not seek re-election in 1992 after a difficult legislative session involving the adoption of a state income tax, which she voted for. Even though she had risen to become deputy House speaker, she didn't "have the enthusiasm or the sense of humor I did a few years ago," Polinsky said at the time.
She wasn't done with state service, however. Then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker installed Polinsky as commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, bumping her salary from less than $20,000 as a legislator to more than $88,000, records show.
A year or so later, Rowland named Polinsky to the Public Utilities Control Authority with similar pay, and in 1997 she retired, four years after leaving her legislative job, qualifying her for a lifetime pension of $53,172, according to state pension records.
Now living in Boynton Beach, Fla., Polinsky said in a phone interview last week that while she did want an appointed job upon quitting the legislature, she wasn't motivated by a desire to increase her pension.
"I didn't do it for that reason, to be honest," she said. "I didn't say, 'Hey, I'd better get out of the legislature to build up my pension.' Nobody gave me any assurances."
A few minutes after the interview ended, Polinsky called back and left a voice mail: "Just 'cause you're a past legislator and appointed to a responsible position as an administrator doesn't mean you're not capable. I mean, I had been [co]-chairman of the appropriations committee ... and I had gone to Harvard business school. You know, Weicker did not appoint an idiot. Good for him. Thanks, bye."