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Pennsylvania has a law to make sure state workers who use the resources or circumstances of their public employment to commit a crime do not collect a state-paid pension. Any one of a list of crimes results in pension forfeiture.
However, Senior Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said some gaps exist as pension forfeiture is not required of public employees convicted of certain criminal sexual offenses, including the ones on which former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted.
“Only when the offense is committed by a school employee against a student will it serve to disqualify the public employee defendant from receiving a pension. This unfortunately, as the Sandusky case has shown us, is under inclusive,” Fina said.
He noted crimes involving child sexual abuse and conflict of interest are among those not included in the list of offenses that require public employee perpetrators to give up their pensions.
“There’s another strange absence in the act and that’s the most commonly charged theft in Pennsylvania is theft by unlawful taking. There are like five different forms of theft in the crimes code, and that for some reason is not in the Pension Forfeiture Act, as well.” Fina said.
He added anyone who uses public employment in any way to commit a criminal sexual offense against a child should forfeit his or her public pension, whether or not the perpetrator is a school employee. “This should be true whether or not the victim is a student,” Fina said.
Legislation to strengthen the state’s pension forfeiture act is before the House, and one member of the chamber says amendments to broaden it are likely.