New Bedford Mayor Plans to Appeal Retirement Board Decision
NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell's office says the city administration plans to appeal a decision from the retirement board last week granting former Acting Fire Chief Paul Coderre a pension.
Coderre had been fired in January for allegedly lying about work-related injuries while collecting around $200,000 in injured-on-duty benefits.
But he filed for retirement three days before his termination hearing and was later awarded a pension, a move that the city asked the retirement board to reconsider.
In a meeting on Sept. 7, the New Bedford retirement board voted 3-2 to keep the award in place.
Their decision came after hearing officer Michael Sacco made the recommendation in an Aug. 23 report on his findings.
According to Sacco's report, the crux of the issue is whether Coderre was fired for reasons of "moral turpitude," loosely defined as injust, immoral, or dishonest actions.
Public retirement pensions can be denied to those who have been terminated for moral turpitude, according to New Bedford Retirement Board Executive Director Eric Cohen.
However, Sacco wrote in the report that "there is a dearth of evidence to support such a serious charge."
"The reasons advanced for Deputy Chief Coderre's termination, the evidence presented in this proceeding and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, do not support a finding that he was terminated for moral turpitude," the hearing officer concluded.
But Mayor Jon Mitchell had previously said that Coderre "betrayed the trust of the firefighters that served under his command, and he took advantage of city taxpayers."
"Regarding last week’s hearing, the City does plan to appeal the decision, to the state’s Contributory Retirement Appeal Board," a spokesperson for the mayor's office wrote in a statement to WBSM News.
While serving as New Bedford's Acting Fire Chief in 2019, Coderre claimed several work-related injuries, netting him more than $200,000 in benefits.
But according to the city, an investigation and video surveillance from New Bedford's Personnel Office found him taking actions allegedly inconsistent with his injuries — like unloading a 176-pound barbecue smoker grill from his pickup truck.