By Mark Scolforo
The Associated Press
HARRISBURG - A Pennsylvania arbitrator has ruled that Jerry Sandusky's $4,900-a-month Penn State pension be reinstated, including back payments from October 2012, when his child molestation conviction prompted the state retirement system to end his benefits.
Hearing examiner Michael Bangs wrote in an opinion dated Thursday but made public Monday that it was clear the former assistant football coach was no longer a Penn State employee after his 1999 retirement. That was critical to the pension dispute because the state Pension Forfeiture Act was expanded five years later, in 2004, to add sexual offenses to the list of crimes that trigger forfeiture.
"The Pennsylvania forfeiture law is simply not applicable to SERS' members who commit crimes after they have begun receiving their pensions, which is really what SERS is attempting to do in this case," Bangs wrote. "The courts simply cannot extend the current law beyond any rational interpretation of its current form."
Both Sandusky and the State Employees' Retirement System can respond to the recommendation, after which the retirement system board will decide whether the pension should be reinstated. That could occur this fall, and if Sandusky loses he could appeal to state courts.
Sandusky's lawyer, Chuck Benjamin, said Monday he was pleased with the ruling, which accepted Benjamin's argument that a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh was incorrect when it claimed Sandusky received 71 post-retirement payments from Penn State. In fact there were just a handful, and half were travel reimbursements, Benjamin said.
"The unfortunate thing here is that SERS acted on the mistaken belief that the Freeh report was correct when the undisputed evidence showed it wasn't correct," Benjamin said.
Sandusky testified in January on the pension issue by video link from a state prison in southwestern Pennsylvania. He was the only witness his lawyers called.
His pension benefits include a 50 percent survivor's annuity for his wife, Dottie.
The 70-year-old Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after being convicted two years ago of sexual abuse of 10 boys.