Like many others, I was disgusted but not surprised that the board of 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. This decision by six of the eleven board members is a slap in the face to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and further evidence that our public pension system is in need of additional reform.
It’s obvious to me and should be obvious to both elected officials and private citizens alike that public employees and public officials who are convicted of or plead guilty or no contest to any felony offense related to their employment should not receive a taxpayer-funded pension. Too often, these criminal employees cut deals whereby they plead guilty to a non-forfeiture crime so they can keep a pension. Bob Mellow is the latest, but you’ll find numerous other former legislators and high-ranking state, local and school employees who did the same thing.
I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 611, that would expand the list of pension forfeiture crimes to include all felonies, and it passed unanimously out of committee in April of this year. Nearly eight months later, it has yet to be debated by the full Senate. This legislation must be brought up for a vote without delay so that we prevent future Bob Mellow boondoggles.
It is well past time to require all egregious offenders to face a financial penalty for violating the public trust. For the naysayers I ask, “Is it really that difficult to not commit a felony on the job?” If it is, then public service probably isn’t the right place for you anyway. Let’s get this done for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.
State Senator, 15th District