Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PA Lawmakers want people convicted of sex crimes against minors to forfeit public pensions

This is a bad idea because it will actually decrease reporting of sex crimes and ensure MORE cover-ups.

Lawmakers want people convicted of sex crimes against minors to forfeit public pensions

A York County lawmaker is pushing for changes to state law that would take away former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's pension.
Daily Record/Sunday News
Updated:   07/04/2012 07:05:18 AM EDT

York, PA - State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester Township, is pushing for changes to state law that would take away the state pension for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as well as for others convicted of sex crimes against minors.
"I just find that outrageous," DePasquale said. "...We've got to find a way to make sure that he is not eligible for that pension. It is an absolute abuse of the public trust."
DePasquale said his planned legislation would apply retroactively, beginning June 1. But he acknowledged that there may be challenges to such a move.
"While I know many are concerned about the constitutionality of a retroactive change to pension laws, I feel that Mr. Sandusky should not be rewarded with a public pension, paid for by the good citizens of this Commonwealth, after committing such heinous crimes," DePasquale wrote in a memo last week, where he asked fellow members of the state House of Representatives to co-sponsor his planned legislation.
He said in the memo that, under current Pennsylvania law, public officials and public employees who are convicted -- or plead guilty or no contest -- to crimes related to their jobs lose their pension rights.
DePasquale said this week that if Sandusky was a public school teacher who abused a student "you could easily take away his pension."
And although DePasquale said he hopes the pension board does find an existing criteria to strip Sandusky's $58,898 annual pension, it appears the board may not be able to, because the children Sandusky was convicted of abusing weren't his students.
DePasquale's planned legislation would guarantee that a state pension would be taken away from anyone convicted of a sex crime involving a minor.
DePasquale said he hopes lawmakers will take action in the fall on his planned legislation to expand the criteria.
Other lawmakers have proposed changes to the state's pension forfeiture law during the past year.
In October, before Sandusky's arrest, state Sen. Larry Farnese, a Democrat from Philadelphia, introduced legislation that would stop state and municipal workers convicted of sex crimes against minors from collecting public pensions.
After Sandusky was charged, state Sen. Pat Vance, R-Camp Hill, introduced legislation that would expand the pension forfeiture criteria to include people convicted of an "infamous crime" -- which she has said the courts have ruled to mean felonies.
She said that's already a threshold for judges.
"It certainly makes sense to me to have it all the same," Vance said.
Her legislation, Senate Bill 1408, was referred to the Senate finance committee in the winter, but it hasn't been voted out. She said she believes that if her law is passed before a person's sentencing, then the changes would apply.
State Sen. Mike Waugh, R- Shrewsbury Township, is one of the co-sponsors on Vance's legislation.
"Just in principle ... I believe that if an individual is convicted of a felonious crime ... there's a penalty that you pay, and this is part of it," Waugh said.
Auditor general opponent
State Rep. John Maher -- a Republican from Allegheny County who is running against state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester Township, in the state auditor general race -- said if he was on the pension board, he would vote to revoke Jerry Sandusky's pension.
"He was a public official when the first assaults occurred," Maher said. "He was using his official capacity to exploit and assault these children. And, in my mind, that is public corruption."
But Maher acknowledged that that argument "would require a rather broad reading of existing law."

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