HARRISBURG — An arbiter has ruled that Jerry Sandusky should be able to keep his pension despite his criminal conviction on child sex abuse charges.
The State Employees’ Retirement System and Sandusky are battling in court over whether the state should return a $5,000-a-month pension to Sandusky.
A hearing examiner in the case recommended that Sandusky’s request to have his pension reinstated be granted, according to court documents in the case.
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 argued that 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.
Sandusky’s attorney, Charles Benjamin Jr., has maintained that the former coach retired in 1999 and that the agreement he signed was essentially a retirement package.
Michael Bangs, the hearing examiner, wrote in the recent court filing that it was clear Sandusky controlled the way he worked, was able to come and go as he pleased, didn’t have to answer to anyone at Penn State and had no responsibility or obligation to the university — indications that he was not an employee after 1999.
Bangs also references the Freeh report, saying it “was based on significant hearsay and was mostly ruled inadmissible (for the proceedings), (but) was admitted in part to show it had found Sandusky had received 71 separate payments from Penn State between 2000 and 2008.”
But the Freeh report was incorrect in that, according to the arbiter, who said Penn State only made six separate payments in those years to Sandusky for less than $5,000.
Penn State did not return a message seeking comment on the alleged discrepancy.
“The Freeh report had stood as a large part of the ground on which SERS forfeited (Sandusky’s) pension; the misleading aspect of this vitally important portion is significant,” Bangs wrote.
He continued later in a footnote: “The terrifically significant disparity between the finding in the Freeh report and the actual truth is disturbing. While the Freeh report found that Penn State had made 71 separate payments to (Sandusky) between 2000-2008, they were off by almost 85 percent, as the correct number was six separate payments.”
Bangs goes on to say that the error “calls into question the accuracy and veracity of the entire report.”
Appeals of SERS board decisions, if taken, go to Commonwealth Court.
Sandusky, 70, is serving a 30-year minimum sentence at the Greene state 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 @MCarrollNews.