APRIL 18, 2007
Louisiana legislators refused to pass a law last year that would strip criminally convicted public officials of their taxpayer-funded pension, opening the way for yet another corrupt official – currently in jail–to collect a hefty monthly check from the state.
In the wake of rampant public corruption, a handful of states have passed laws to deny elected officials and public workers convicted of crimes such as bribery, perjury, malfeasance and other wrongdoings related to their position, of the taxpayer portion of their public pension.
Even the United States Congress unanimously passed such a law earlier this year to strip any of their elected members convicted of serious crimes of their congressional pensions. The law, which takes effect in 2009, was created in response to the nation’s largest bribery scandal involving members of Congress and a certain imprisoned lobbyist.
When Louisiana State Senator Arthur Lentini proposed similar legislation in 2006, the bill got practically no support from fellow state legislators. Motivated by a wave of fraud and corruption among the state’s public servants, Lentini aimed to amend the state’s constitution to reverse the portion that specifically forbids even the reduction of a public workers’ pension, even after a felony conviction.
That means criminals, such as a former high school principal recently convicted for stealing about $40,000 in school funds will still receive the taxpayer portion of his state pension. A Caddo district fire chief in prison on federal charges for his involvement in a murder-for-hire scheme will also get his hefty pension even if he is found guilty.
Prosecutors say the former fire chief hired a hit man to kill a federal witness that could have linked him to stolen government medical equipment. The trial is scheduled to begin in a few months. Regardless of the verdict, the former chief will get a $45,444 annual pension financed by taxpayers.
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