JUNE 24, 2009
Claiming that corrupt public employees should lose their lucrative state retirement benefits, a New Jersey town mayor is working to block a code enforcement official guilty of bribery from getting his taxpayer financed pension.
The veteran Cherry Hill code enforcement official (Anthony Saccomanno) pleaded guilty last week to federal fraud charges for accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from a firm that did business with the Camden County municipality of about 70,000 residents.
In exchange for two cash bribes of $4,500 each, Saccomanno guaranteed that a Pennsylvania company (Building Inspection Underwriters Inc.) would keep its contract—worth hundreds of thousands of dollars—with the township to conduct plumbing, electrical and elevator inspections.
The corrupt official made $113,502 a year before retiring in December amid the federal fraud charges and received nearly $150,000 for unused sick time as well as $70,824 in vacation compensation. There seems to be no chance to disrupt those payments, but retirement benefits are another thing.
This week, Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt convinced the town’s council to unanimously approve a resolution to block Saccomanno’s state pension and pursue restitution to the township for any “ill-gotten” compensation. "I am appalled and disgusted by the actions of this man," the mayor said. "He has disgraced town hall and his office."
In an editorial advocating that all corrupt officials should lose their pension, the local newspaper unconditionally supports the mayor. Public officials who abandon their ethics and use their power to enrich themselves or their friends need to be punished harshly, the piece says. This will send the message to others in government that corruption won’t be tolerated.
While a handful of states have passed laws to deny public officials convicted of crimes of their taxpayer-financed pensions, some—like Louisiana—actually protect crooked officials by assuring there is no disruption in the payments. In Florida, a prominent Democrat was recently stripped of his lucrative pension after serving a prison sentence for tax evasion and mail fraud.
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