General Assembly Passes Legislation to Strengthen Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act

A bill that would strip taxpayer-funded pensions from public employees who commit job-related felonies was approved recently by the House and the Senate, according to Senator John R. Gordner (R-27), who strongly supports the measure.

The legislation closes the “Mellow Loophole,” named after former State Senator Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County, who in 2017 had his $245,000-a-year pension restored despite pleading guilty and being sent to prison on federal conspiracy charges.

The Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act currently requires a public employee to forfeit his or her pension only for certain crimes listed in the act. In practice, this law allows lawmakers and other public employees charged with a forfeiture crime to plead guilty to a different non-forfeiture crime in order to avoid pension forfeiture.

Senate Bill 113 requires 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.

“I find it very fitting that this will be Act 1 in the new Session,” said Senator Gordner.  “People that abuse their public office should not be allowed to continue to collect tax-payer funded pensions for the rest of their life.  It is my hope that the Governor will sign the bill quickly so it can take effect in a timely manner.”

The legislation also 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 SB 113, courts would now be required to notify state pension systems of all pension forfeiture cases.

Approved overwhelmingly in both chambers, SB 113 is now on its way to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk.

Contact: Mike Stephens (717) 787-8928