DiSanto Bill Expanding Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act Approved by Senate

Harrisburg – Legislation introduced by State Senator John DiSanto (R-15) to ensure that public employees who commit job-related felonies are stripped of their taxpayer-funded pension was approved today by the Senate and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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.

Senate Bill 611 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.

The measure also closes the “Mellow Loophole,” through which former State Senator Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County had his $245,000 a year pension restored despite pleading guilty and being sent to prison on federal conspiracy charges.

“This was the most egregious example — but not the only one – of unscrupulous public officials betraying citizens with their actions and being handsomely rewarded for it – with those same citizens being forced to pick up the tab,” said DiSanto. “It’s beyond adding insult to injury. It’s outright contempt for the people. This needs to end now.”

In addition, the legislation ensures that criminal convictions involving public officials 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.

“The skyrocketing costs of public pensions in Pennsylvania have turned the state budget into a mess and have driven up school property taxes, while taxpayers are continuing to fund the pensions of public employees who commit felonies on the job,” DiSanto said.  “It is well past time to require all egregious offenders to face a financial penalty for violating the public trust. We need to get this done for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”

 

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801