Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Bill takes aim at Sandusky’s pension, legislation would end state payments to sex offenders

Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse Friday, June 22, 2012, after being found guilty in his sexual abuse trial, at the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa.  Centre Daily Times/Nabil K. Mark
Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse Friday, June 22, 2012, after being found guilty in his sexual abuse trial, at the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa. Centre Daily Times/Nabil K. Mark

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is introducing legislation that would strip Jerry Sandusky of his pension, one of several moves to change the state’s retirement rules in response to the child sex abuse scandal.

As a retired Penn State football coach, Sandusky is receiving a yearly pension of $58,898 from the State Employees’ Retirement System. SERS can only stop making payments to a participant if that person is convicted of what is known as an Act 140 crime. That list of crimes includes theft by extortion, bribery in official matters and perjury but apparently doesn’t include the crimes of which Sandusky was convicted.

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, said he’s introducing legislation to disqualify public employees who are convicted of or plead guilty to any crimes against minors that would put a convicted person on Megan’s List of registered sex offenders.

He acknowledged that there are valid concerns about the constitutionality of a retroactive change to pension laws, but said that if that isn’t possible, he’d like to see the changes made going forward.

“Even if this can’t be applied to Sandusky, we want to make sure this can’t happen again,” said DePasquale, who is also running for auditor general.

If the changes to the state retirement system are made, it would affect the money the state, as employer, puts in to match the contributions an employee makes. The convicted person who loses the match would get his or her own money back.

Several other legislators have introduced similar bills.

State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said he thinks it’s appropriate to review the state pension law.

“Some people are forfeiting pensions for things they’ve done that are certainly nothing in comparison to what Mr. Sandusky has been convicted of,” Corman said.

“I don’t think anyone envisioned something like this,” he said.

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, said the House Finance Committee he oversees and the State Government Committee will hold hearings in August on the state pension system and crisis it’s facing. He said that will be an opportunity to look at this issue.

“We can’t have a knee jerk reaction to coming up with a solution,” he said. “It behooves us to take some time and do this right.”

He said the Sandusky case has been a catalyst for the General Assembly to review the pension regulations.

Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy.

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