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Bratton May Get Bay State Pension

June 6, 1994

Police Commissioner William Bratton and his wife, Cheryl Fiandaca, are not merely a New York City power couple. They also have clout up in Boston, their hometown. Enough clout that friends are pushing special legislation that would give Bratton a combined Boston and Bay State pension.

If he succeeds, the $110,000-a-year New York City police commissioner, now 47, would begin receiving about $40,000 annually when he turns 55.

Under the current city-state retirement rules in Massachusetts, Bratton doesn't qualify for a pension because the system counts only 18 of his 21 years in law enforcement there.

He doesn't have the mandatory 20-year minimum because his career was divided among three separate police agencies, only two of which fall under the city-state system. Those two are the Boston Police Department, where he began as a cop and later headed before taking over the NYPD, and the now-defunct Metropolitan Police Department, since incorporated into the state police.

The third, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, where he spent three years, has a separate retirement plan.

But the Bratton bill proposes adding those three years to the city-state tally, giving him the boost he needs to meet the minimum pension requirement.

Bratton says the bill, which must be passed first by the Boston City Council and then by the state Legislature, is "not unprecedented."

But no one whom New York Newsday contacted in Boston could cite a city employee who accomplished what Bratton is attempting. Mike Travaglini, executive officer of the State-Boston Retirement System, said, "How frequently can you get laws written for you? Maybe it's more frequent in New York than it is in Boston."

State Rep. Emanuel Serra of East Boston filed the bill in the Legislature in November at Bratton's request, said Serra's staff director, William Bagley. "At the time, Bratton lived in East Boston and was a constituent and was still Boston police commissioner." (A separate bill was filed last month on his behalf in the City Council, by its president, James M. Kelly.)

Bagley added that Serra is also close to the family of Bratton's wife. "Joe Fiandaca, Bill's father-in-law, was extremely well-respected in the Boston court system. He [Serra] knows Cheryl [Bratton's wife] and her brother Joe, who is a detective in the Boston Police Department."

Cheryl Fiandaca is an attorney paid $70,000 a year as something called the director of international training at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. John Jay spokesman Rob Pignatello described the training program as consisting of teaching Caribbean and Latin American police officials "a more human and sensitive approach to police work."

Walking wounded. Add former Housing Police Chief DeForrest Taylor to the list of those seeking a lucrative disability pension. Taylor, who was pushed Printable versionout following his public opposition to merger of the police forces, claims that 10 days after he started at the housing police in 1990, he slipped and fell at a housing project and tore cartilage in his knee. If approved, Taylor, whose outgoing salary is $109,000, would receive an annual tax-free pension of $ 81,000.

According to a housing police spokesman, Lt. Thomas Sbordone, Taylor "responded to a gas explosion at the Albany Houses at 205 Albany Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Dec. 28, 1990." Sbordone said, "The chief got there about 8:30 p.m. There were icy and snowy conditions and puddles . . . The chief stepped between two mounds of snow, slipped and fell on his left leg." He missed 12 days of work, Sbordone said.

Taylor follows a long line of chiefs and other top cops who have routinely applied for disability pensions. And the Police Department is beginning to give the applications a closer look.

Chief of Personnel Mike Julian is studying the extent to which officers engage in pension fraud. "I'm referring to two kinds of fraud," said Julian. "One, when an officer is injured off duty and claims it was on duty; the second, when an officer is injured on duty, but the injury is not disabling and the officer feigns more serious injury.

"The system is supposed to protect officers who put their lives on the line," Julian said. "It's not supposed to be a gold mine for officers with injuries like falling on their faces while walking on their posts."

Julian said he began the study before he learned of Taylor's injury.

Bad Vibes. You may have read about police Sgt. Robert Santana, the 71st Precinct's cop/attorney who was suspended without pay and faces charges alleging he provided protection and information to drug dealers. You didn't read that on at last three occasions dating back to 1986, complainants, both anonymous and named, alleged to Internal Affairs that Santana used and sold drugs and protected dealers. IAD, which was asleep during those years, never investigated whether there was a pattern to the complaints. Instead, last year, Santana was made a sergeant.

You also didn't read that during all this time Santana served as sergeant at arms and recording secretary of the Hispanic Society, whose former president, current Community Affairs Commissioner Walter Alicea, said, "We had a professional, working relationship."
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© 1994 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.