The Retirement Commission will not reconsider Coderre’s retirement, despite his dismissal

NEW BEDFORD — The Board of Pensions has denied a request by the city to reconsider former deputy fire chief Paul Coderre Jr. retirementeven if he was fired for allegedly moving a heavy smoker’s grill from the back of his truck while on accident leave.

The board voted 3-2 last week not to reconsider the retirement vote.

A hearing was held in June to review the evidence and make a recommendation to council. The city had argued in part that Coderre’s alleged actions that led to his firing constituted “moral turpitude” and should invalidate the retirement.

Hearing officer and lawyer Michael Sacco recommended that the Pension Commission reject this argument in its report published in August.

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He said: “The crux of this case for the Commission is whether Deputy Chief Coderre was fired for reasons of moral turpitude.”

Sacco said the “serious allegation” of benefit fraud would amount to moral turpitude if proven.

He added: ‘I do not wish, however, to conclude that what happened in this case even comes close to moral turpitude, as there is little evidence to support such a serious accusation.’

According to evidence given at the June hearing, Coderre had been acting chief since December 2018 when he walked out after being injured on duty on April 3, 2019.

He had received more than $208,574 in benefits over approximately two years, but was fired by the city on January 25 following a disciplinary hearing in which just cause was found for the dismissal.

According to surveillance videos from the city’s insurer, Guardian Claims Services, taken on June 10, June 15 and August 30, 2021, Coderre was seen moving the grill into his truck.

He was seen by a doctor in September 2021 and the doctor concluded he was incapacitated. Coderre had said he was still suffering from back and leg pain.

The doctor, after receiving the videos in October 2021, changed his mind, saying Coderre was able to climb and bend and stoop repetitively. He also said Coderre was not honest with him during the September exam.

In a still from surveillance video, former New Bedford Deputy Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr. is seen lifting a heavy smoker's grill from his truck without help.  He was fired on January 25 for allegedly misrepresenting his injury status, but two days later was allowed to retire.

Coderre had argued that a separate medical opinion deemed him unable to perform the essential duties of a firefighter in December 2021, and he was never medically cleared to fully resume his duties.

Coderre filed for disability retirement with the board in December 2021. He was notified on January 6, 2022 that his dismissal was being considered by the city. He filed a pension application with the board on January 10, which approved him in a 3-2 vote on January 27. The board had not been formally notified of the January 25 dismissal, according to evidence presented at the June hearing. . Sacco said the timing of the events did not undermine Coderre’s retirement eligibility.

Coderre testified at the June hearing that he helped stabilize the box containing the smoker in the back of his truck at the pick-up point, and when he got home and his stepson n Wasn’t there to help him, he used his upper body strength to shimmy the smoker out of the back of his truck onto a cart to transport him to his backyard, according to Sacco.

Sacco said in its report that the city did not use the phrase “moral turpitude” in its grounds for dismissal. On the contrary, he said he violated the firefighters’ code of conduct for lying and discrediting the department. And this discovery was based on the surveillance videos and the medical examination of September 2021.

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Sacco added that the city had not provided the surveillance videos during the June testimony hearing – just photos and the report – that the doctor had not been provided to testify and that there was no had no representative from the city insurance company.

He also asked why the doctor had not received the surveillance videos before the September 2021 examination and why he had not reviewed Coderre after seeing them a month later. He also called the September review “medium and rather circumscribed and limited.”

He said the city’s insurer “reviewed and approved multiple treatments and surgeries” during Coderre’s two years of injury leave, including a nearly $20,000 surgery in early October 2021.

Coderre’s appeal against his dismissal to the Public Service Commission is still pending, as is his application for accidental disability retirement to the city’s Pension Board, according to the hearing report.

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