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If you go to jail, should Pennsylvania pay for retirement?

Former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz leaves his arraignment in Harrisburg in 2012. Schultz is sixth on the list of former state employees with the highest annual pension payments. He plead guilty to one count of child endangerment in March.
Former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz leaves his arraignment in Harrisburg in 2012. Schultz is sixth on the list of former state employees with the highest annual pension payments. He plead guilty to one count of child endangerment in March. Centre Daily Times, file

Pennsylvania has been facing big issues with retirement for years, but on Monday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale joined those who see one way to save some money.

Stop paying for the retirement of people who are convicted of crimes.

DePasquale audited the State Employees Retirement System and the Public School Employees Retirement System in 2017. He called out the need for reform at that time.

But in recent weeks, increased attention has been given to just who is getting that money. A November article on Philly.com pointed to some well-known Centre County names — former Penn State president Rodney Erickson and former vice president Gary Schultz.

Erickson pulls down more money from his state pension than anyone else. He retired and was replaced by Eric Barron in 2014.

Erickson’s name attracted attention because of how much money he was getting, the top payout of $477,591, but Schultz jumped out because of the circumstances associated with his departure.

Schultz is in sixth place on the payout list from PSERS, with an annual pension of $330,699 for his 39 years of service. He left Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. In March, he entered a guilty plea to one count of child endangerment and is serving a sentence that included a mixture of jail time, house arrest and probation.

Pa. AG Josh Shapiro spoke following the Graham Spanier verdict in Harrisburg. Spanier, Penn State's former president, was found guilty of misdemeanor child endangerment and not guilty of conspiracy. Former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley a

“As I highlighted in my audits this year of the two state employee retirement systems, it is clear there are problems with the language of the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act that need to be fixed immediately,” DePasquale said in a statement. “It boggles the mind that taxpayers are on the hook to pay pension benefits to any public employee who pleads guilty to or is convicted of a crime committed in the course of their public service.”

He pointed to “multiple legislative proposals” the General Assembly could use to address the situation.

“There is no excuse for not acting now to protect taxpayers from paying retirement benefits for public servants who abuse their trust by committing crimes in office,” DePasquale said.

Pension issues regarding the Sandusky scandal are nothing new. Sandusky’s own pension has been a back-and-forth issue. SERS took away his $4,900/month pension in 2014. The Commonwealth Court reversed that decision in 2015.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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