I’m as outraged as the LNP Editorial Board (“No loopholes,” Nov. 27) that public employees are still collecting pension benefits despite a criminal conviction. This is why I spent the past three years pushing to strengthen Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act to end lifetime taxpayer payouts to lawbreakers.
My Act 1 of 2019 would have forfeited the pensions of many of the teachers mentioned in the LNP investigation had it been in place at the time their crimes were committed. I wish prior Legislatures would have changed the law, but instead it was up to me to reform the system. The Pennsylvania courts have made it abundantly clear that it’s unconstitutional to retroactively forfeit an ex-public employee’s pension.
Forfeiting a school employee’s pension for a job-related offense doesn’t depend upon the crime’s occurring within the school’s walls — only that the individual’s employment as an educator in some way facilitates the crime. Pension forfeiture cases are fact-dependent and state pension boards already can decide to deny pensions to educators whether or not the sexual abuse occurs at their own school, during the school day or after hours.
I fully agree with the editorial board that sexual contact between a teacher and student constitutes abuse and we should have no tolerance for it. Pension forfeiture is now a consequence for teachers who commit sexual offenses against children.
Providing due process through the criminal justice system when a vested pension benefit is to be forfeited isn’t a loophole. Like Pennsylvania, pension forfeiture laws in other states recognize this fundamental legal principle.
GOP state Sen. John DiSanto