MARCH 05, 2012
In the latest case involving a corrupt public official keeping a taxpayer-funded salary, an assistant fire chief in Florida will hang on to a six-figure annual pension despite a fraud conviction.
This sort of thing is common at all levels of government throughout the United States, that public servants keep their pension after going to jail for their criminal behavior. Even judges who have been convicted of atrocious crimes have somehow managed to keep receiving their taxpayer-funded salaries.
Just a few years ago Judicial Watch reported that more than 20 members of Congress convicted of crimes were receiving their federal pension at an annual cost of about $1 million to U.S. taxpayers. The alarming figure came to light because, at the time, a veteran Louisiana congressman convicted in a huge bribery scandal was next in line to keep his public pension.
The few who have been stripped of their hefty retirement checks have fought to get them back, some with success. For instance, George Ryan, the famously corrupt Illinois governor sentenced to 6 ½ years for fraud and racketeering, won a fierce court battle to get back the lucrative pension he lost after being imprisoned.
In this recent Florida case, a board that oversees retirement funds for firefighters and police officers in Miami, decided that convicted assistant fire chief Veldora Arthur can keep her $167,000 annual pension despite her transgressions. The disgraced assistant chief is in prison for operating a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme in which she used her official position with the city to obtain the loans.
Incredibly, the city’s retirement trust board found that Arthur’s public pension should not be confiscated because she acted in a “private capacity.” At least the attorney representing the city’s pension board acknowledged that the assistant chief’s actions were “wrong” and “immoral,” though not bad enough to stop the checks from coming.
A few years ago a popular sheriff, Ken Jenne, in nearby Broward County lost his generous state pension for after pleading guilty to mail fraud conspiracy and tax evasion for accepting more than $151,625 in illegal payments and other benefits. After Jenne went to jail, a state agency determined that he was no longer entitled to his $134,500-annual pension.
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