Connecticut voted three years ago to abolish its county sheriff system. But
because the state has paid him a nominal $1 a year since then, one of the former
sheriffs appears to have qualified for a state pension of $300 a month - plus
health benefits for the rest of his life.
Even though it was only $1 a year, the payments still meant that former Hartford
County Sheriff Walter Kupchunos continued to draw a salary. The two years of
staying on the payroll, plus credit for previous military service, recently
brought him over the 10-year threshold for state service, which in turn made
him eligible for the pension, the Hartford Courant reports.
The loophole that benefited Kupchunos stemmed from a compromise reached by
lawmakers and Gov. John G. Rowland, according to the Courant. Though voters
overwhelmingly voted to abolish the sheriff positions in 2000, their status
as elective offices meant they couldn't officially be eliminated until May 31
of this year, when the existing sheriffs' terms expired.
Rowland, according to the Courant, originally wanted to eliminate the sheriffs'
salaries completely. But some legislators worried that doing so would set a
bad legal precedent. Under the resulting compromise, the sheriffs' salaries
were cut to $1 until their terms expired.
"I didn't think it was lawful to just eliminate their salaries, because
it set a bad precedent that you could change or eliminate any elected official's
salary," said state Rep. Michael Lawlor, cochairman of the committee that
oversaw the elimination of the sheriffs.
Regarding Kupchunos' pension, Lawlor told the Courant: "I guess technically
he's earned it."
The Hartford Courant