Have you ever heard a name mentioned in the news, and your first thought is, “I didn’t know he was still alive!”
And then you hear that not only is this person still alive, he’s still on the payroll somewhere, and you say, “You gotta tell me about that? How old is he?”
I had one of those moments the other day. The name that inspired me was Sal Patna.
He was – and still is – the clerk magistrate of the Dedham District Court. He is the one who oversaw the hacking of former state police Capt. James Coughlin, who was accused of giving alcohol to a minor.
That’s right, 82 years old Patna.
There’s an old saying in the State House about lifelong payroll patriots like Sal Paterna:
Forgot but not gone.
But here’s one thing you should never forget – 155,084. This is what clerk magistrates get paid annually.
You’re a state judge in Massachusetts, mandatory retirement age 70 Well, a lot of these lousy judges aren’t collecting a fat pension plus kissing each other in the same mail if they were prosecutors, many of them Getting paid (or panic before) as “remembering” the judges.
But if you are a clerk magistrate, you will never, ever have to retire. Just ask Sal Patna, age 82.
Or ask your counterpart in Quincy, Arthur Tobin, date of birth 5-22-30. In other words, he is 91 years old and still paying.
Does the name Frank Sargent ring a bell? The year he became governor, I was still in high school. That would be 1969.
His assistant chief secretary – the guardian figure – was the one Joe Farretra. Sarge appointed his friend as a clerk magistrate in East Boston in 1974.
Ferretra will turn 80 next March. Like most clerks, you rarely mention his name, until sticky-fingered State Judge Logan is caught at the security door picking up a $5,000 watch (no problem!) (Broom for the Feds) Sounds like a job!)
When Ferretra got the job, a man named Henry Schultz had already been a clerk magistrate at the Newton District Court for three years. He was working for the governor’s council when Sarge nominated him at the age of 31.
Schultz is still in Newton, serving alongside the extinguished, I mean Distinguished Judge Mary Beth Heffernan, and prosecuting (but still being paid) Shelley Joseph.
Schultz turns 81 next Friday.
His mentor, Frank Sargent, is dead in these 23 years. To paraphrase Shakespeare, a man who does good is not interred in his bones, but his clerks remain magistrates.
However, why should he retire? If you “work” at a Massachusetts courthouse, you have been more or less retired since March of last year. Even before the panic, most of these hackers had no caseloads.
Have you ever driven by a suburban courthouse in the afternoon — not just Friday, I mean any afternoon — and noticed how many cars are in the parking lot?
This is not because there are Charlie cards in all layouts.
This longevity in the ultimate no-heavy-lifting job is nothing new. Clerk Magistrate in South Boston was a man named Flaherty. He remained on the payroll for 58 years after being appointed by Governor Maurice Tobin in 1945. Flaherty eventually died in 2005 at the age of 94, and was replaced by a woman whose maiden name was … Flaherty.
Worcester District Court Clerk Thomas Noonan did not step down until he was 88 years old.
In Framingham, an ex-state representative named Tony Colonna had the job for 37 years. At the age of 85, he was charged first with assaulting a female assistant, then a family member (with a knife). He died soon after, but he never retired.
Then there is the clerk magistrate at Lowell, William Lisano. Who says a job doesn’t keep you young? At the age of 74, Lisano was arrested in Burlington for assaulting his wife. Of course he beat rap and, yes, he’s still at work, at 80.
The only clerk magistrate I remember actually separating from a state paycheck was Jackie Bulger, jailbird of the Old Boston Juvenile Court. But that was about being bullied more than being hacked.
Clerkship has always been a good dumping ground for corrupt state legislators (and their relatives, such as the Bulgars, whose prison bureau number is 23986-038).
former representative. Ed Teague is still hacking around Falmouth at age 71. After losing the House Leadership Race, Bill Nagle got a job at Ware as a consolation prize. She is only 70.
The clerks tried to prevent another wage increase in the new state budget, but were rebuked in the state Senate. (Don’t they all remember Jackie’s older brother Billy?)
Maybe I’ve missed some old-timers, but if you have any questions about which clerks are heading to the checkout counter, just ask Lt. Gov. Caron to “play to play” Polito.
He’s a real hack, and you know it because most of his coat holders understand that it’s better to score a clerkship than a judge, any day of the week. I can list all of his hack friends he’s interred in his $155,084-year clerkship, not just his home turf in Worcester County.
But why bother? They have all been forgotten, but have not gone.