NBC 10 I-Team: North Providence retired cops asked to repay pensions to tune of $130K

Letter from Town of North Providence controller to retired police officers say they need to repay pension money. (WJAR)

The NBC 10 I-Team obtained documents showing a group of four to six retired North Providence police officers have been asked to repay more than $130,000 in pension money, money that was given to them in a supposed accounting error.

We have been apprised that John Hancock provided the Town of North Providence incorrect cost of living payment information,” stated a letter providted to the NBC 10 I-Team and sent to retirees from the town's controller Maria Vallee last month.

The NBC 10 I-Team has learned the money was paid to the retired officers over the course of approximately eight years.

“Based on the corrected information provided by our actuarial company, we have determined that your COLA payments should have been based on the consumer price index (CPI),” stated the letter to retirees.

Some retired police officers are being asked to give back large sums of cash, some of those amounts are greater than $20,000 over a five-year period. The town has asked for the money to be returned in lump sums or through a monthly payment plan.

The retirees affected by this accounting error, who are disabled officers, have now hired attorney Michael Lepizzera. One affected retired cop told the NBC 10 I-Team the town is blaming John Hancock Financial, but perhaps the town itself made the accounting mistake here.

“It’s not like I knew this was happening," said the retired officer. "Now, it’s burden to repay that amount -- that’s a car payment."

The retirees said they have legal precedent on their side in the dispute, referring to a 2011 Superior Court decision where North Providence firefighter retirees prevailed in a similar case.

North Providence officials said they would not comment on the situation because the retirees hired an attorney. The town is being represented by attorney Vincent Ragosta.

Ragosta told the NBC 10 I-Team the tax free 3 percent COLA’s are the issue here. “The officers wrongly received windfalls they were not entitled to and they were unjustly enriched,” Ragosta said.

John Hancock Financial sent NBC 10 a statement, noting that "while it is company policy not to discuss the private matters of our clients, we can tell you that John Hancock has fulfilled its obligations under this contract consistent with our agreement with North Providence. Moreover, we have not been contacted by the Town on this matter."

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