FITCHBURG -- The administrator of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, placed on administrative leave with two others on Wednesday, said he has not violated state laws on pay and pensions.
Mohammed Khan said he retired from his position at the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission 10 years ago and began working with MART. Khan began collecting a pension from his time at the Planning Commission, plus his MART salary. He said MRPC is part of the state pension system, and MART is covered under Social Security.
"As far as I am concerned, I should not be a part of that regulation when they say I am double-dipping," Khan said. "I am not contributing any more to the retirement system."
State law bars municipal employees from collecting both a pension and a full-time public salary.
MBTA and MassDOT General Counsel Paige Scott Reed wrote to MART Chief Financial Officer Jeanette Wade on Wednesday informing her that MassDOT intends to refer the matter to the Inspector General's office for investigation.
"MassDOT takes violations of this nature extremely seriously, and pending the results of the Inspector General's investigation, expects pursuit of all available avenues for recouping illegal salary payments," Reed writes, in the letter obtained by the Sentinel & Enterprise.
Khan said that he is required to submit a written report to the state's Ethics Commission annually, and has been doing so for 10 years with no problem.
Khan said with his MART position, he does not collect state health benefits and no longer contributes to a pension.
"It looks like they have changed the law and have declared us as part of the state government without the benefits," he said. "This is an issue that will be responded to by the state Retirement Board."
Khan said he understands that a meeting of the MART Advisory Board is pending. Advisory Board Chairman Lisa Wong, Fitchburg's mayor, and vice chairman Mark Hawke, Gardner's mayor, could not be reached for comment.
Sara Lavoie, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said Wong placed the employees on leave.
MassDOT officials have also been dispatched to MART headquarters in Fitchburg to collect and catalog information and documents that might be relevant to the Inspector General's investigations, and MART officials have been asked to secure all documents related to the employment and payment of salary to any employee previously employed by another public entity.
"It didn't break any laws because we aren't collecting money," Khan said. "You can't be a state employee if you don't have the health benefits or the pension. We should be considered an independent agency. I think it is clear that we cannot be subject to a state law that someone has declared we're a part of without any benefit."
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This report includes material from the State House News Service.