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Senate panel kills pension sanctions for those who misuse taxpayer dollars

May 2, 2011 |  4:44 pm

A proposal to strip public pensions from city and state officials convicted of misusing taxpayer money died in a state Senate committee on Monday after some lawmakers and employee groups said it is too severe.

  The measure by Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) was introduced in response to criminal corruption charges filed against city managers and council members in the city of Bell, including former City Administrator Robert Rizzo.

        Strickland’s proposal would have extended the same pension sanctions to city and state managers that already apply to elected officials and judges.

        “The incidents in the city of Bell highlight the need for this bill,’’ Strickland testified before the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. “Even if Robert Rizzo is convicted of theft of public money and falsifying documents, he will still receive his pension.’’

        The two Republican members of the committee voted for the bill, but it did not receive any of the votes of the Democrats, including Chairwoman Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino).

        Negrete McLeod agreed with the concerns of associations representing firefighters, school employees and state supervisors that the measure singles out public employees and could harm innocent family members.

        The senator noted her own husband, who is a retired LAPD officer, is eligible for a pension.

        “If you took it away from him, you take it away from me. I haven’t done anything wrong,’’ she said, speaking of a hypothetical situation.

        She was joined by Sens. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) in withholding votes needed to pass the bill out of committee. Strickland had proposed that public officials convicted of certain felonies involving their public jobs starting next year would forfeit their pensions. The convicted officials would have had their own contributions to their pension funds returned to them under SB 115.

--Patrick McGreevy

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