- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Panelists, from left, Alex Vogt, Leon Kenison and Mike Izbicki make presentations on major infrastructure projects during a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, March 24, 2011, at the Courtyard Marriott. Projects include the Broad Street Parkway, Manchester Airport Access Road and commuter rail.
Double Dip: Kenison led NH DOT, now directs Nashua Broad St. project.
NASHUA – Leon Kenison receives a pension from the state and works full time for the city.
And that’s perfectly legal, according to Marty Karlon, spokesman for the N.H. Retirement System.
People drawing a pension from the state system can’t work full time for an employer in that system, Karlon said. The idea is that workers in the system should be contributing to the retirement system – collecting a pension while working full time doesn’t help the system, he said.
However, the Nashua Division of Public Works has its own city-managed pension program and isn’t part of the state retirement system. Working for public works would be the same as working for a private company or for an out-of-state municipality and carries no restrictions against working full time, Karlon said.
Kenison worked as the state transportation director, retiring in 2000. He was hired in 2009 by Mayor Donnalee Lozeau as the city’s director of the Public Works Division.
He was being paid a salary of $98,057 when he changed jobs this spring. Kenison now is the city’s project administrator for the Broad Street Parkway, a job that pays $84,139. The Broad Street Parkway position is also within the Division of Public Works.
During his employment with the city, Kenison has also drawn a state pension of $4,400 a month.
When Lozeau tapped Kenison for the public works position, she cited his experience running the state Transportation Department. Kenison’s hiring was met with praise by members of the Board of Aldermen.
“I’m really impressed by his resume,” former Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom said when Kenison’s hiring was announced. “That’s exactly what we need to get the Broad Street Parkway moving.”
Kenision agreed that his experience with the state was a large reason why he was hired for the city job.
“It certainly gave me a leg up on the process,” he said.
However, Kenison is currently in a dispute with the state retirement system, because of two jobs he held between his retirement from the state and taking the public works director’s job.
In 2007, Kenision worked full time as town administrator for Pittsfield, and he held the same full-time position from 2008-09 in Hopkinton.
Kenison said he used an exemption clause in the law that otherwise prohibits people receiving a pension from working full time for an employer in the retirement system. Under that exemption, neither he nor the towns he worked for contributed money into the pension system for Kenison.
However, the retirement system is contesting the exemption and is asking him to pay back benefits he received from those towns, Kenison said. A hearing on the issue has been scheduled, Kenison said.
Karlon said he could not comment directly on Kenison’s case because of the pending hearing, other than to confirm that the New Hampshire Retirement System is reviewing details of Kenison’s employment status when he worked for Pittsfield and Hopkinton.
Generally, some positions can be exempted, allowing people to work, if proper notification is given, Karlon said.
“Depending on the position, there are different ways to dot i’s and cross t’s to make it work,” he said.
The state Legislature has made participation in the retirement program optional for some positions, Karlon said.
Under RSA 100-a:22 – Modifications, “Municipalities may, by action of their city council or board of selectmen, exempt their chief administrative officer, at the time of initial hiring or appointment, from compulsory membership provided herein.”
Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.