State pension system defends seizure of Jerry Sandusky benefits

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 1, 2014 


Jerry Sandusky and his wife Dottie enter the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte for his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, December 13, 2011.

CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE — Centre Daily Times Buy Photo

Lawyers for the State Employees Retirement System argued that Jerry Sandusky remained a contracted employee with Penn State after retiring as a coach, getting football tickets, an office and unfettered access to athletics facilities as compensation.

SERS made the argument in a legal filing this week as the court battle continues over whether the state should return a $5,000 a month pension to Sandusky, who is behind bars for sexually abusing young boys.

Sandusky’s attorney has maintained the former coach retired in 1999 and the agreement he signed was essentially a retirement package.

Because he retired in 1999, and because sex crimes weren’t added to the list of offenses that can cost a state employee a pension until 2004, Sandusky can’t be stripped of his pension for his 2011 arrest and subsequent conviction, his attorneys have argued.

Attorneys for SERS have a different interpretation of the agreement signed by Sandusky and Penn State. They said the university continued to compensate Sandusky with cash, tickets and an office, while the former coach would work to promote the university.

“The letter agreement puts lie to Sandusky’s contention that he ‘retired’ in 1999,” SERS attorneys wrote in the filing. “If anything, in June 1999, Sandusky retired from his position as football coach, but then continued as PSU employee in a new ‘outreach’ position ...”

SERS also argued that Sandusky and Penn State renewed their agreement in 2004, after indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual conduct were added to the list of crimes that cause pension forfeiture.

The lawyer handling the appeal for Sandusky filed paperwork in March charging that the state retirement system illegally stripped Sandusky’s pension and made up interpretations of the law to back up their decision. The lawyer, Charles Benjamin Jr., wants a complete reinstatement of the $59,000 a year pension, plus interest and other legal costs.

Lawyers for SERS issued their own closing arguments in the case this week, and the arbiter will issue his decision within 30 days.

Appeals of SERS board decisions, if taken, go to Commonwealth Court.

Sandusky, 70, is serving a 30-year minimum sentence at the Greene County prison, and has maintained his innocence. The state Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of his conviction.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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