September 28th, 2011 at 11:59 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
By Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Retirement Board voted Wednesday to require retired firefighter John Sauro to undergo further medical testing to examine his eligibility for a tax-free accidental-disability pension.
Sauro’s case burst into the public eye in May after undercover Target 12 video showed him partaking in a vigorous weightlifting routine despite being officially declared disabled in 2000. Mayor Angel Taveras called the video “outrageous” and his administration is working on a broader crackdown on questionable pensions.
Sauro’s attorneys tried without success to convince the board not to require him to take more tests. Sauro himself was present at the meeting.
In July, a doctor told city officials he believed Sauro is still too hurt to work after giving him a medical examination. He takes home about $3,800 a month tax-free in pension payments. The city also pays $1,800 a month for his health insurance.
The Retirement Board ordered the additional tests shortly after rescinding the accidental disability pension they’d granted former Fire Chief George Farrell earlier this month.
Taveras and City Council President Michael Solomon issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they “believe that pension reform must occur this year – including reforms of the disability pension system at issue in [Farrell's] case – and are working closely to address this challenge.”
August 16th, 2011 at 10:24 am by Ted Nesi under The Saturday Morning Post
The Providence Journal’s editorial board has more questions about the weightlifting firefighter who was the subject of Target 12′s “Feel the Burn” investigation last spring:
Certainly, those who injure themselves in the line of duty for the public deserve the public’s support. But it is clear that disability pensions have not been monitored as closely as they should be. No system is perfect, but with the city running out of money, all spending must be assessed.
Could an operation and some physical therapy have helped Mr. Sauro return to the job, at vastly less cost to taxpayers? How bad is his injury today, given the vigor with which he can lift weights? What other tasks could he be doing for the city, even if his rotator cuff has problems?
July 14th, 2011 at 3:05 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
Officials in Providence are mulling how to fix an apparently broken process for certifying disability pensions in the wake of our Target 12 “Feel the Burn” investigation, the Projo’s Greg Smith reports:
In 2009, the city launched its first annual comprehensive review of the disabled, asking that the retirees have a physician certify that they still cannot return to work. It was such slow going, officials gave up without having checked the entire list.
The same thing happened in 2010.
But for 2011, they are well along in the process at midyear. …
It is unsurprising that nothing amiss has turned up, officials acknowledge, because retirees on disability pensions are allowed to have their personal physicians certify that they continue to be disabled from doing their old jobs.
That arrangement, Mayor Angel Taveras and other officials contend, contains a conflict of interest for the physician, who presumably is on friendly terms with his patient, and is ripe for abuse.
Smith’s full story is here.