Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary says he will start to collect his $90,000 police pension if he's reelected in November.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary is once again in the public eye, but not just because of his campaign for reelection.
O'Leary has announced that, if reelected, he'll retract a 2011 campaign promise and collect the $90,000 police pension that he vowed to stop during his first term.
“I'm very comfortable with the fact that I've elected to take the pension now because I've got to take care of my family,” O'Leary said.
O'Leary tried to go back on the promise once before. He started collecting his pension last April, citing unexpected financial burdens stemming from family medical problems.
Days later, O'Leary changed his mind again. He stopped the payments and took out a loan.
“There was a time when I was struggling when I was going to break the promise," O'Leary said. "And I heard clearly from the public that they didn't approve of that."
O'Leary earns close to $120,000 in salary, but said he took a hit when his aunt suffered a stroke last year.
He's also supporting multiple households: O'Leary has a home in Watertown with his current wife, but lives by himself in Waterbury. He also has a daughter, who lives in yet a third home with his ex-wife.
O’Leary said the pension pledge came from an accusation by his opponent, who claimed O'Leary was in it for the money.
In hindsight, he admits that making the pledge may not have been the best idea.
“Quite frankly, I don't think it was the wisest decision. I really don't,” he said.
O'Leary said he failed to account for the income slash that would come along with leaving his job as Wolcott police chief, where collecting his pension wasn’t an issue. He spent 30 years with the department.
But he said the pledge to forgo his pension wasn't meant to be a permanent promise.
“I always said it would be for the first term. I never said it would be subsequent terms,” O’Leary said. “I made the promise and I fulfilled the promise."