Proposal targets corrupt officials' retirement benefits - - Jackson, MS

Proposal targets corrupt officials' retirement benefits

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT

Holding corrupt public officials' feet to the fire. Just how far should the state reach into their punishment is the new question.

A revolving door of Mississippi public officials have been paraded in and out of courtrooms. The total is up to 145 local and state employees convicted of public corruption in the past six years. Now, some lawmakers want to put up a road-block.

"I had some constituents talk to me about every time a public official gets indicted he might serve some house arrest or whatever and he goes off and has his retirement," explained Rep. Greg Haney.

Haney filed a bill that would make those officials forfeit their public retirement benefits  if they plead guilty or when convicted.

"We're hoping this will be a deterrent," Haney said. "Maybe we never have to use this. That's what we hope."

Representative Steve Holland says the bill may not be an easy sell.

"That needs a lot of study," Holland noted. "I'm not sure I would be in favor of that. I'm not for corruption and I think they need to be put away. But to take their retirement benefits may be a little too punitive."

Haney and Representative Randy Rushing had similar bills filed last year. Neither made it out of committee because of questions from the Public Employee's Retirement System (PERS). They've since gotten their input and created the more comprehensive legislation. 

Rep. Haney said upon passage of the new legislation and the court's final ruling, the funds that convicted public employees have contributed to the retirement system would be reimbursed to them, minus interest earned and without the public employer's contributions on behalf of the employees.

This legislation would not have the ability to impact cases currently pending in court. If passed, it would only apply to those felonies committed after July 1, 2015.

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