There’s a lot to be outraged about in the story of the long-term sexual abuse of boys by Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach of Penn State’s football team. The most recent is a notice issued by the Pennsylvania’s public employee retirement system that explained that while Sandusky’s recent conviction and sentence to a minimum of 30 years in prison disqualifies him from receiving any further pension payments, they will not seek to reclaim the nearly $900,000 in payments he received since retiring from the university in 1999.
The State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) said it lacks the legal authority to seek repayment because the law limits its ability to go after money that was paid out prior to a conviction or a finalized plea agreement. Sandusky’s lawyer responded to the SERS announcement by saying that his client will continue to fight to keep his pension.
The SERS ability to revoke the pension comes from Act 140, which is a law that lays out the conditions under which a person entitled to pension payments will forfeit them. However, Sandusky’s lawyer is arguing that Act 140 doesn’t apply to his client since none of the accusers were students of Penn State. Under the law, the state can initiate forfeiture proceedings only if the receiver is convicted of certain crimes, including public corruption or wrongdoing involving a student.
Those who forfeit their pension under state law are reimbursed their own contributions.
Act 140 forfeitures apply upon conviction for certain crimes. Existing case law says that “conviction” occurs at sentencing. Sandusky was sentenced on Tuesday.
Nancy Eshelman, in column for the The Patriot-News, argues that taking away Sandusky’s pension is needlessly punitive – especially since doing so invites the government to weigh in on an agreement made in good faith between an employer and an employee. Furthermore, an attempt to further punish Sandusky — who will not need the nearly $5,000 a month he would receive while in prison — would primarily impact his wife, who was not convicted of any crime at all.
The way I see it, that’s his wife’s money. She earned it. Dottie Sandusky has been married to the guy for 46 years. She raised six adopted kids. I don’t know the woman or know much about her. I just know how much energy and time it took to raise two kids. I can’t imagine six.
Although there are doubts about how much Dottie Sandusky knew and when she knew it, she has never been accused or convicted of any crime. She spent her life as a homemaker and a stay-at-home mom to allow her husband to earn his living — and his pension. Denying her access to the funds is to invalidate her contribution to earning it.
In the end, Eshelman calls the move by SERS “kicking a dead horse,” and implores people to remember that Jerry Sandusky has already received the maximum punishment allowed under the law. To continue would be to visit the punishment on to the undeserving.