FITCHBURG -- The embattled head of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority continues to collect to a $133,650 salary after abandoning his plans to retire at the end of January.
Mohammed Khan, who has worked for the Fitchburg-based transit agency since 1979, changed his retirement plans after he was placed on paid administrative leave last month amid a probe into whether he illegally collected a state pension and full-time salary simultaneously over the past decade.
Khan plans to address the allegations at a meeting of the MART Advisory Board this morning.
"I want to clear my name," Khan said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I rescinded my retirement. I said I'm going to go back and clear everything. The state has acted very abruptly."
Khan retired as executive director of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission in 2003 and began collecting an annual pension of $63,761. He retained his full-time position as head of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, however.
State law limits the amount of money public-pension recipients can earn upon rejoining the public-sector workforce. Any state pension recipient cannot work more than 960 hours a year in another public job, whereas the typical 40-hour-per-week job amounts to nearly 2,100 hours per year.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has referred the matter to the state Inspector General's Office for investigation.
Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, who chairs MART's advisory board, placed Khan on paid administrative leave last month as a result of the investigation.
In a letter sent to the Department of Transportation on Friday, Nicholas Poser, an attorney for Khan, argued that agencies such as MART are not subject to postretirement earning limits until 2009. Since Khan retired from the Planning Commission in 2003, Poser claimed Khan was not in violation of any laws.
"Your concern about MART recouping 'illegal' salary payments is unfounded and reckless," Poser wrote.
In defending his client, Poser also referenced James Scanlan, who earns more than $115,000 as head of the Lowell Regional Transit Authority, despite leaving a job at the MBTA after 24 years with a $68,000 pension and free health benefits.
"The issue was resolved by a determination that (Scanlan's) employment was entirely appropriate," Poser wrote.
But according to a state pension official, the Attorney General's Office ruled that MBTA retirees are able to work full-time jobs in the public sector while collecting pensions because the MBTA has a private retirement system.
John Parsons, general counsel for the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission, said last month that Scanlan "is not subject to the postretirement law because he is not a state retiree."
Poser concluded his letter by calling the allegations against Khan "reckless," "ill-informed" and "near libelous." He also asked the Department of Transportation to take "appropriate action to attempt to remedy the impact" the allegations have had on Khan.
Transportation officials have been dispatched to MART headquarters in Fitchburg to collect and catalog information and documents that might be relevant to the IG's investigations.
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.
MART Deputy Administrator Bruno Fisher has been acting as the agency's interim administrator since Feb. 1.
Khan said he plans to retire from the agency once the investigation is resolved. He estimated that could take as long as three months.
"I have worked there for over 35 years," Khan said. "I do not want to go with a cloud over my head."
Follow Chris Camire on Twitter @chriscamire.