Retired firefighter receives less lucrative disability pension following court ruling

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – The Providence Retirement Board voted to give retired firefighter John Sauro a less lucrative retirement benefit following a Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling earlier this year which had him deprived of his non-taxable accidental invalidity pension.

In a 7-0 vote on Wednesday, the board granted Sauro the request for the regular disability pension, which is granted to employees who can no longer work due to injury or illness. suffered outside of work.

The ruling ends a long affair that began after Sauro was seen in 2011 Target 12 infiltration video vigorously lifting weights and participating in a regular workout routine despite a shoulder injury he said he received while working as a Providence firefighter.

Sauro, 55, got an accidental disability pension in 2000 and was getting $ 3,900 a month tax-free. The regular disability pension has a monthly benefit of $ 1,600, but is taxable.

Following the Target 12 report, the city decided to deprive Sauro of his pension, but he successfully fought the decision in a case before Superior Court Judge William Carnes, who ordered the city to restart benefits. monthly Sauro.

The city had sent Sauro to a specialist in Boston who determined that his shoulder no longer prevented him from being a firefighter, but discovered that Sauro suffered from a litany of other medical conditions that could prevent him from being a firefighter. .

In February, the state’s high court overturned Carnes’ decision and determined that the city had the legal right to cancel the pension.

“Allowing the claimant to pay perpetual accidental disability benefits in these circumstances defeats the objectives of the order, which are to compensate for work-related disabilities and to encourage qualified people who are relieved.” of these disabilities to return to work, ”Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg writes in the court opinion. “It would also be manifestly absurd, given the [Providence Retirement Board’s] finding that the applicant is disabled, to place an disabled firefighter on a list for a position for which he is not qualified.

Sauro collected over $ 130,000 in pension payments between the Carnes decision and the Supreme Court decision. Under a deal, Sauro paid the city $ 25,000 on Thursday, according to Emily Crowell, spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Tim white ([email protected]) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Current actors for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow it on Twitter and on Facebook

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