Republicans Move To Strip Convicted Child Molesters Of Their Teacher Pensions
Lawmakers have decided to act following a report showing that teachers convicted of crimes against children are still receiving pension payments in Washington state.
Republican state Sen. Barbara Bailey is pushing legislation that would prevent any public employee who commits a felony from receiving taxpayer-funded pension benefits while in prison, after a report last week that child sex offenders are still getting millions in payments.
More than 20 teachers serving prison sentences, often for committing crimes against children, are still receiving pension payments, reported Washington’s King 5 News. By the end of 2014 they’d collectively been paid $5 million more than they ever paid into the system.
“The taxpayers of this state are quite concerned about someone collecting a state pension when they’ve committed a felony,” Bailey told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Some of these felonies have been in the course of their work as a teacher — crimes against children — and I really feel it’s time that we take the proper actions that would eliminate someone from being able to do that.”
Public employees in Washington don’t currently lose their taxpayer guaranteed retirement benefits when they are convicted of a crime, and teachers can earn lifetime benefits after working only five years.
The list, compiled by King 5 News, includes teachers convicted of sex crimes against children. For example, Laurence Hill was found guilty of multiple counts of child molestation after he admitted to molesting several of his 10-year-old and 11-year-old students. By the end of 2014, he’d received $334,471 from the state pension system, which is hundreds of thousands more than he contributed.
Another former teacher, William Pickerel, admitted to molesting so many boys over the course of 27 years he doesn’t remember what happened with each of them. As of 2014, he’d received $571,879 in pension benefits, which is about $450,000 more than he contributed.
Bailey has introduced two bills to address the issue in Washington. If a public employee commits a felony while employed, the first bill would strip their benefits while they’re in prison, and the second would allocate some of the benefits to the state to cover the cost of their incarceration.
“Those kinds of crimes are so egregious,” Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who is a co-sponsor on the bills, told TheDCNF. “They break the public trust, and the public shouldn’t be expected to pay for benefits in these kind of egregious situations.”
At least 25 states have laws in place that require public employees or elected officials convicted of a crime to forfeit at least part of their taxpayer-funded benefits, reported King 5 News.
Kit Raney, who represents retired teachers, told TheDCNF declined to comment immediately, because she’s reviewing the legislation. But she told King 5 News last week she would fight any law that strips teachers of their pension, because they shouldn’t lose it under any circumstances.
“This is just pure noise and a non-issue as far as I’m concerned,” she told King 5 News.
“If a worker commits a crime, it is handled by the legal system,” she added. “The trial, the conviction is part of the legal system. It is totally separate from the pension system, which they contributed to and earned throughout their career. It’s apples and oranges.”
A spokesperson for a Washington branch of the AFL-CIO declined to comment on the report or the legislation, except to say a representative from the union will be part of any committee discussions about the changes.
The bills are eligible for a fast track to the rules committee, which Bailey chairs, so they have a decent shot at being brought up for a vote in the near future. Bailey told TheDCNF she expects a rigorous debate and some opposition, but is confident of the prospects.
“When you are asking for things like a garnishment or a forfeiture of a pension, those are very serious issues and ones that are quite difficult to change,” she said, but added: “In light of some of the egregious things that have surfaced around this issue, I think it’s going to be really hard for people to make a compelling fight.”
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