By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. If you are lucky in the blog which sent you this article, a well oiled and eye-catching picture of bodybuilder Albert Arroyo accompanies the text. If you don’t have it, go to any search engine to find pictures of this now notorious x-Boston, Massachusetts fire fighter. You will have no trouble finding plenty; for Albert was a man born for the camera… and pumping iron videos, too. You’ll find that the photographic and video documentation is substantial… our Albert loved the lime light and applause… Now he’s bombarded with more of it than he ever dreamed of or bargained for. Sadly it’s all negative. As for the title of this article, “Why was he born so beautiful?…” this is a tune sung by raucous soccer lads. I have been unable to find a reference to it in search engines; composer and date of composition are likewise unknown. That’s unfortunate for it’s a very peppy little number, equal portions of condescension, bombast, and insult. Matey Brits love it… and so do university students who drop into this song at a moment’s notice.
Here’s how it happened…
For Boston firefighter Albert Arroyo, March and April 2008 were ostensibly rough months. He reported falling on March 21 and suffering a back injury so severe that, a few weeks later, his doctor wrote that Arroyo should be granted an accidental disability retirement because he is “totally and permanently disabled”.
Yet, on May 3, after being out of work for six weeks and collecting his full salary tax- free, Arroyo achieved a significant feat. He finished eighth in a men’s bodybuilding competition, the 2008 Pro Natural American Championships.
By late May, Boston fire commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr. learned of Arroyo’s strict training regimen and his record as a competitive bodybuilder. Fraser urged the Boston Retirement Board to deny the application.Then in July, 2008, the Boston Fire Department shifted Arroyo, then 46, from injured leave to regular sick leave, which is taxable, after its chief medical officer determined that any injury was not work-related.
A very public black eye for Boston and its pampered firefighters.
The story about Albert Arroyo could scarcely have come at a less felicitous time for Boston firefighters. In mid-April 2008, a federal grand jury issued scores of subpoenas to Boston firefighters as part of a criminal investigation into years of questionable disability injury claims by retired and active firefighters of all ranks. Arthur Arroyo became the poster child of a sleaze-ridden system that over and over again granted pension disability payments to those who by no means qualified for them. It was a Boston scandal; one which seemed to be endemic to every mayoral administration, business as usual for all. This was especially true of Local 718, Boston Firefighters. It was a union marked by fraud, chronic cheating, and flagrant favoritism and mismanagement. The citizens of Boston, already hard-pressed by the great recession of those years, erupted in an avalanche of anger, outrage and (because of Arroyo’s bodybuilding, wearing little more than a smile) caustic humor, deadly and accurate. Long overdue reforms were a must and the Arroyo case helped insure they were started.
Fire commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr., the man in the middle.
Fraser was relatively new (2006) to his important job. Fraser, a former naval officer, met fierce resistance from the Boston Firefighters Union in his strenuous effort to change the culture in a department long dominated by the union. Firefighters of every rank, except the commissioner, belong to the same union, and until Fraser arrived, commissioners had always risen through the ranks.
Arroyo’s application for a disability pension came as the department was roiled by embarrassing disclosures about questionable injury claims.
In January 2008, the (Boston) Globe reported that in the 6 previous years, 102 Boston firefighters has been granted enhanced disability pensions because their career-ending injuries occurred while they were temporarily filling in for superiors and being paid at the higher pay grade The additional cost to the city from paying those pensions at the higher grades will be about $25 million. When this figure was disclosed, citizens screamed again — and this time hitherto timorous political leaders decided to act. Again the (nearly naked) figure of Arroyo, now universally known throughout the metropolis, was a factor… he and his case were completely understandable… and when they understood citizens screamed bloody murder at the previously recalcitrant and hesitant city officials. This time these officials acted… and one of their first captures was Albert Arroyo. The man who previously could waste a day or two deciding just how small his posing strap should be, highlighting by judicious selection, now had real problems… the feds charged him with applying for a $65,000 a year fraudulent tax-free, accidental-disability retirement benefits package. If proven, the charge could send Arroyo away for up to twenty years, ironically the very length of his service as a firefighter.
Trial underway now.
The trial is now underway in Bean Town.
Having a good basic knowledge of how the law works is important for every citizen of the great Republic. Every citizen is in this sense a repository of what the law is and how it functions. If you’re such a citizen, congratulations. You are doing your great task as a citizen. Such people, now jurors, are even now reviewing Arroyo’s robust, healthy lifestyle since he claimed to be disabled of playing baseball, shopping, dining out, visiting a tanning salon and taking out-of-state trips. They will seek to show by pointing to each thing he did which as a disabled person he should not have done; that his disability was bogus, a fraud from first to last.
The defense has a more difficult task. They must show that while Arroyo was disabled for certain things (like inspecting buildings for the Fire Department) he was most assuredly not disabled for others (like playing baseball… and competing in high stress, high stakes male bodybuilding competitions). Their’s then will be a defence of slicing carefully and hoping they can get the jury to buy into what could be a defence that does not defend.
Good and lasting effects of this fraudulent Boston firefighter pension business.
1) Local 718 Boston Firefighters Union got a wake-up call. Your job is not to protect people who lie, deceive, make-up in order to get a significant pension. Your job is to protect the public by making sure only the best firefighters are selected… and bad firemen are not rewarded but sacked.
2) If you’re the doctor Arroyo went to first to certify his disability (that would be Dr. John F. Mahoney, Dorchester neurologist) ask yourself why you didn’t see anything odd in the perfectly buff, symmetrical and sculpted patient before you that was requesting disability. Some think you never met Albert Arroyo at all… or if, when you did, you didn’t bother to actually look at him. Of course now you’re scrambling to show that you really did examine the man, really.
3) If you’re Fire Commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr., watch out…. In Boston if you’re on the right side of the wrong issue the long knives await you… and for gouging this sacred cow,they definitely want to snuff you. Beware.
And as for Arthur Arroyo, you most assuredly will never get that $65,000 tax-free each year… and a trip to the pokey is likely. There you can practice your posing to your heart’s content. Just don’t drop any soap in the shower.