HARRISBURG— Legislation introduced by State Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry) to ensure that public employees who commit job-related felonies are stripped of their taxpayer-funded pension was approved Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee in a unanimous, bipartisan vote. The bill now moves to consideration by the entire Senate.
This legislation, Senate Bill 113, closes the loophole used by unscrupulous public officials whereby they plead guilty to non-forfeiture crimes so they can keep a pension. This issue made headlines when the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) voted to restore the more than $245,000 annual public pension of admitted felon and former State Senator Robert Mellow.
Currently, the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act requires a public employee to forfeit his or her pension only for certain crimes listed in the act. In practice, this law allows public employees charged with a forfeiture crime to plead guilty to a different non-forfeiture crime in order to avoid pension forfeiture.
Senator DiSanto’s legislation would require pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to any felony offense related to his or her employment.
In addition, the legislation ensures that such criminal convictions are reported to state pension boards. Current law does not require the employee, courts, or state agencies to send copies of court records upon conviction. Instead, pension boards learn of pension forfeiture cases through agency websites and newspaper articles. Under Senator DiSanto’s bill, courts would now be required to notify state pension systems of all pension forfeiture cases.
“At a time when public pensions are wreaking havoc on state and school district budgets, it’s especially egregious that taxpayers are continuing to fund the pensions of public employees who commit felonies on the job,” DiSanto said. “I appreciate the Senate Finance Committee’s support and look forward to Senate passage soon.”CONTACT: Chuck Erdman 717-787-6801 firstname.lastname@example.org