Gov. Deval Patrick has named Jeffrey Simon to be the “director of infrastructure investment” — which means he will oversee the billions of dollars in federal stimulus money Washington will be sending our way. Simon may well be the “best man for the job,” but his pension play comes with symbolism Patrick would have been wise to avoid.
One unsettling point about the flood of cash flowing from Washington to “fix” the economy is that standards of conduct that were supposed to take on renewed importance have gone out the window.
It didn’t matter that new Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner “forgot” to pay $34,023 in taxes — for two years.
President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress decide the former Federal Reserve president was the best man for the job in these troubled times, so he was given a pass on his tax troubles.
A similar scenario is playing out in Massachusetts as Gov. Deval Patrick has named Jeffrey Simon to be the “director of infrastructure investment” — which means he will oversee the billions of dollars in federal stimulus money that Obama and Geithner will be sending our way.
Simon, 58, of Ipswich, is a longtime real estate developer as head of Simon Properties – not to be confused with South Shore Plaza owner Simon Property Group – and worked many years in government in land management positions. He is most well-known for heading Massachusetts’ redevelopment of the former army base at Fort Devens.
This is where it get convoluted.
Simon left that position in 1995 to, according to the governor’s Web site, take a post in Bermuda overseeing the closing of four military bases there. What hasn’t been said is that Simon claimed he was “fired” from his Ft. Devens’ post after three years and one day, coincidently just enough time to qualify for a big pension boost.
Normally, you might think that would be cause for shame or some negative reaction. But in Massachusetts, it is a cause for celebration. Simon’s “firing” after 20 years in government made him eligible for an enhanced state pension, which he has been collecting ever since he was in his mid 40s.
The amount is more than $400,000, a nice reward for being “fired.” It is ironic that Patrick — who has called for pension reform — would hire someone for this important post who was either fired from his last state job or managed to manipulate the system to get a taxpayer subsidy.
Patrick said he was naming Simon to oversee the billions of dollars in federal money because, “It is essential that these investments be made wisely and overseen professionally.”
But these ludicrous pensions, which go to defeated legislators accused of groping women and longtime legislative assistants who get “fired” almost exactly after they hit the magic 20-year mark, are not wise investments.
They are ripoffs of the taxpayers, who are powerless to prevent legislators from enriching themselves and their friends.
Simon may well be the “best man for the job,” but his pension play comes with symbolism Patrick would have been wise to avoid.