The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 15, 2013

Crimes could cost workers’ pensions

---- — A bill aimed at making it easier for the state to boot government employees out of the pension system if they are convicted of crimes has been tabled because lawmakers are in no hurry to publicly argue about what crimes are serious enough to justify losing an important employee benefit, the author of the reform bill said Thursday.

Pennsylvania government employees only lose their pensions if they use their government jobs to break the law or commit a number of specific offenses, chiefly related to theft and fraud. Sex offenses only result in a loss of pension if the employee is a school employee who has victimized a student.

The state pension system argued that Jerry Sandusky was a “de facto” school employee when he targeted young people he had met through the Second Mile charity he founded while serving as an assistant football coach at Penn State. Sandusky has appealed the pension system’s determination that he should forfeit his $59,000 a year pension.

The legislation authored by Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, of Union County adds a list of “crimes of violence” that would allow a government employee to be booted from the pension system. The bill would also provide for pension forfeiture after any conviction for a felony.

Keller said that he was told that the legislation was being tabled because there is concern that some of the offenses described in the bill are classified as misdemeanors, which, in the judicial system, are not considered as serious as felonies. Keller’s bill adds: homicide, aggravated assault, rape, incest, sexual abuse of children, arson, kidnapping, robbery and burglary. In addition to the crimes of violence, the bill would also add theft and all the prohibitions included in the Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, which includes things, such as conflicts of interest and accepting improper gifts.

“It’s broad, but I made it broad for a reason. The public shouldn’t have to pay for the pensions of people who violated the public trust,” Keller said.

A first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000. A third-degree felony, the lowest grade of felony, carries a maximum jail sentence of seven years and a top fine of $15,000.

Keller authored the legislation after learning about a case in which a former state police trooper was arrested on charges that he had exposed himself on a web cam while chatting with someone he thought was a young girl.

In that case, Douglas Sversko, 45, was approved for a $34,812 a year pension, due to his 18 years of service in the state police.

He pleaded guilty to unlawful contact with a minor and illegal use of a computer and was sentenced to five years probation. Both those crimes are felonies, Keller noted.

Under Pennsylvania’s pension forfeiture rules, even if an employee is kicked out of the system, he or she gets to keep the money the employee paid into the pension. The employee only forfeits the employer contribution, that is, the amount that is provided by tax dollars.

“It’s a shame we even have to have this discussion, Keller said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • City zoners give nod to Speedway signs

    Speedway cleared a hurdle Thursday when city zoners granted a variance for signs at the company’s gas station and convenience store proposed for downtown Sharon.

    August 1, 2014

  • Retirement is definite, hiring replacement isn’t

    Farrell Fire Chief Joseph Santell will be retiring at the end of this year.

    August 1, 2014

  • Natural gas rates drop 5.6 pct.

    National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. on Thursday announced it lowered residential natural gas rates by 5.6 percent, effective today through October.

    August 1, 2014

  • Audit calls for better record-keeping policies

    The annual auditor’s report for the City of Farrell was presented by City Manager Michael Ceci to council members Monday.

    August 1, 2014

  • trout island trail paving Hot on the trail

    Work began last week to pave a section of the Trout Island Trail, replacing a crushed limestone surface.

    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • CIRT team in Jackson Center Man arrested after shooting standoff

    One Jackson Center man is recovering from a bullet wound, and the borough resident accused of shooting him sits in jail after a long night of drinking that state police say turned into a case of attempted homicide.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sharon Speedway location City on track for new Speedway store

    Speedway is lining up its administrative and bureaucratic cones on plans for the gas station and convenience store chain to zoom into downtown Sharon.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Guards, county OK deal

    County officials and guards at the Mercer County Jail have reached a tentative contract agreement that, if approved, halts the idea of privatizing operations at the facility.

    July 31, 2014

  • Doss: Public has right to know

    A major part of Farrell council’s work session Monday was spent deciding whether or not to inform the audience about an unofficial police proposal from the City of Sharon.

    July 30, 2014

  • Budget falling short despite tax hike

    Farrell residents may have seen an income tax increase this year, but the city isn’t seeing the extra dollars City Manager Michael Ceci budgeted for.

    July 30, 2014

  • oakwood graves 1 Resting together

    Visitors to Oakwood Cemetery would see many  familiar local names if they looked down the hillside to the left just inside the gate on Sharon’s North Oakland Avenue.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • Police: Kids in car were OK

    The mother of two young children was drunk and passed out when police found them all in a car parked along a city street, Sharon police said.

    July 29, 2014

  • To talk – or not – about police

    The mysterious agenda item, “No. 10,” at Farrell’s council meeting Monday became the center of a heated workshop and business session.

    July 29, 2014

  • Community thanks its first-responders

    Sharpsville honored its emergency responders Sunday at an event that included Mertz Towers residents as special guests.

    July 28, 2014

  • Drilling boom challenges state inspectors

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 28, 2014