DRACUT -- Selectman Bob Cox will not be eligible for pension or other retiree benefits if re-elected to another three-year term because of a 2009 state law, the Middlesex County Retirement System has ruled.
The potential for Cox reaching a threshold of 10 years of service to the town next year -- and therefore becoming eligible for retiree benefits -- became a source of contention leading up to next Monday's election. Cox denied that the benefits were the reason for running for another term, but he added that he would accept the benefits if eligible.
"I've been accused of abusing taxpayer dollars and continuing to do so for the rest of my life," Cox said Wednesday. "That's just not the case."
Cox uses town health insurance but will not be eligible after his service ends and won't be eligible for a pension or retiree benefits like health insurance.
The Middlesex County Retirement System cited a 2009 state law in ruling that Cox has only about four years of creditable service, not the nine years for which he's served as a selectman. That means he wouldn't reach the 10-year threshold if elected to a fourth term next Monday.
The 2009 law eliminated accrual of creditable service for state, county or municipal workers earning less than $5,000 a year, said Pamela Chong, a retirement counselor for the retirement system.
Cox continues to pay into the retirement system at 9 percent of his annual stipend and remains eligible for certain other benefits like accidental disability if injured on the job, said Chong, who told Cox in a letter last week that he would not be eligible for the retiree benefits.
But no matter how long Cox continues to serve as a public official, he will not be able to add to the roughly four years of service he accrued before the law change, as long as he's earning less than $5,000.
His annual stipend is $2,000 as a selectman.
"It is what it is," Cox said when asked about the law's effect on his benefits. "There's nothing I can do about it."
Cox, asked if he was disappointed, replied "of course."
"As anyone else would be," he said. "But they changed the rule, and that's that."
Cox is being challenged in Monday's election by three other candidates: Tami Dristiliaris, Alison Hughes and Ted Kosiavelon.
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