July 17, 2008

Board Lets Peabody Cop Bettencourt Keep Pension

By Stacie N. Galang, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

Jul. 17--PEABODY -- Police Lt. Edward Bettencourt can keep his pension, a divided Retirement Board voted Thursday morning.

Against the advice of their attorney Michael Sacco, board members voted 3-2 to grant the convicted veteran officer his retirement.

"I think what the board found is that there is no direct link between the crime that he committed and his duties as a police officer," Sacco said.

Bettencourt, a 24-year veteran of the Police Department, was convicted April 4 of 21 counts of unlawful computer access for looking at the online civil service test scores of fellow officers.

Joseph DiFranco Sr., Donna Hopkins and ex-officio member Patricia Schaffer approved Bettencourt's retirement Thursday. Chairman Richard Yagjian and John McGinn were the two dissenters.

DiFranco and Hopkins are elected members of the board while McGinn was appointed by Mayor Michael Bonfanti. Schaffer, as the city's director of finance and administration, serves as an ex-officio member. Yagjian was elected to serve as chairman by the board members.

Bettencourt and his wife, Barbara, accompanied by attorney Paul T. Hynes, went before the board. Hynes brought several pages of handwritten notes.

He and his attorney had made their case to the Retirement Board May 22 during a private hearing. They continued to discuss the issue behind closed doors Thursday morning.

When the open session resumed, a majority of the members agreed.

After the meeting, Sacco said the board has 15 days to issue its written decision. The state pension board will respond 30 days after receiving Peabody's decision, Sacco said.

Bettencourt submitted his application for retirement the same day he was convicted in Suffolk Superior Court. He has been on unpaid administrative leave since his indictment in October 2006 and was fined $10,500 for his crime.

For more on the decision, please see Friday's edition of The Salem News.


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