AUGUSTA — A Maine lawmaker has proposed a pension forfeiture law so public employees who commit felonies in connection with their work could have their state pensions cut off.

The proposal comes as former Maine Turnpike Authority Director Paul Violette is facing jail or prison time for theft of public funds during his tenure. Violette could spend as many as five years behind bars but will keep his $5,288.52-a-month state pension because Maine has no forfeiture law.

Rep. Les Fossel, R-Alna, is sponsoring the legislation, LR 2745. It would put Maine in line with more than 15 other states that currently have pension forfeiture laws that enable or require courts to cut off pension in certain cases.

Fossel’s proposal also would require employees convicted of theft to make restitution. Violette has already paid restitution totaling $155,000.

“Violation of the public trust is a serious offense,” Fossel said in a written statement. Fossel serves on the Government Oversight Committee which investigated the allegations against Violette last year.

“My bill addresses crimes rated as Class C or greater, which bring incarceration of at least five years,” he said. “Any public officer or employee found guilty of a job-related crime at that level could lose their pension, depending on the judgment of the court. The court would have discretion to make the final decision based on the facts of the crime itself. If it is egregious, the court would have the authority to order a forfeiture of the pension.”

The only part of a pension the person could not lose is the amount contributed by the member to the retirement system, without interest, under the bill.

 


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