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Guilty or not, Sandusky can keep Pa. pension

EVEN IF ALLEGED child rapist Jerry Sandusky is convicted of child-sex-abuse charges, he's still likely to pocket a $58,898-a-year, taxpayer-funded state pension for the rest of his life.

EVEN IF ALLEGED child rapist Jerry Sandusky is convicted of child-sex-abuse charges, he's still likely to pocket a $58,898-a-year, taxpayer-funded state pension for the rest of his life.

That's because none of the crimes charged against Sandusky are specified in the state's Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act as crimes that would disqualify his pension.

The Republican-controlled Legislature could amend the pension forfeiture law to expand the list of crimes to include those Sandusky is charged with, but seems in no hurry to do so.

Sandusky, the former assistant to Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, maintains his innocence. He gets his first opportunity to face his accusers in court today in a preliminary hearing in Bellefonte, Pa.

Since Sandusky was charged on Nov. 5, there have been no hearings on pending bills that would address the issue of stripping pensions from state employees convicted of child-sex-abuse offenses nor are any scheduled.

A bill that would require some convicted child-sex offenders to forfeit a pension passed the House without a dissenting vote in June, but still hasn't gotten a hearing in the Senate.

A prominent political analyst said the "inaction" was baffling in light of a scandal that has exploded into the national spotlight and cost coaching icon Paterno and university president Graham Spanier their jobs.

"Given the current environment, this is not a heavy lift," said G. Terry Madonna, a professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster.

"Taking away a pension from a state employee who commits a crime that involves endangering children would be about as easy a vote as you can possibly cast," he said.

The bill that passed the House unanimously on June 13 would strip pensions from state employees convicted of, or pleading guilty to, endangering the welfare of children and/or corruption of minors in employment, has been bottled up in the Senate's State Government Committee since June 21.

That bill, if passed by the Senate in the form it passed the House, could have implications for Sandusky if he is found guilty at trial or pleads guilty to the charges.

Some 20 of the 52 charges lodged against Sandusky involve endangering the welfare of children or corruption of minors.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Chuck McIlhenny, R-Bucks/Montgomery, who is also on the board of the State Employees' Retirement System, did not return calls for comment.

The minority chairman of the committee, Sen. Anthony H. Williams, D-Phila., said he doesn't know why the bill is stuck in committee.

"I cannot imagine this bill would not see quick expedition if brought up for a vote," he said.

The bill's sponsor is Rep. Karen Boback, R-Columbia/Luzerne/ Wyoming, who also did not respond to a call for comment.

A spokeswoman for Boback said the legislation was primarily introduced in response to the "cash-for-kids" judicial corruption case in Luzerne County.

There is also legislation before committees in the House and Senate that would make any public employee or official found guilty of an offense requiring registration as a sex offender - the so-called Megan's Law - ineligible for a state pension.

The legislation - introduced by Rep. Brendan Boyle and by Sen. Larry Farnese, both Philadelphia Democrats - has been bottled up since mid-October in the Senate Finance Committee and the House State Government Committee.

Last month, Senate Finance Chairman Mike Brubaker, R-Chester/Lancaster, told the Daily News that he was "studying" Farnese's bill and intended to reach out to him to discuss it further.

But Farnese said he has not heard back from Brubaker.

Boyle's bill has suffered a similar fate in the House's State Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Darryl Metcalfe, R-Butler. Metcalfe has not responded to requests for comment.

Unlike the city's provisions for pension disqualification, state law does not include a catch-all provision for "malfeasance" in office or employment.

Philadelphia pension officials used that tool this year to disqualify two former cops who were convicted of child-sex offenses.

The state law lists 21 specific crimes for which an employee can lose a pension, but murder and rape are not among them.