Debate Magazine

Washington State Spends Millions on Convicted Teachers Retirements

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

say what

King5.com: In Washington, public employees who commit a crime don’t lose their taxpayer guaranteed retirements, and teachers can earn the right to a lifetime retirement after working for as little as five years.

KING 5 asked the state for a list of all the teachers who have had their Washington teaching license revoked and compared that list to a list of all the public employees receiving a pension.

The state has multiple retirement plans for teachers. Two of them would be considered a traditional pension plan, the third includes a private component. KING 5 only focused on the first two.

That led to a list of 22 teachers, most who had been convicted of crimes against children, who together have received about $5.1 million above their own retirement contributions, interest included as of the end of 2014.

That’s about $236,027.95 on average per person.

The list includes people like Norman Standley, David Lloyd Anderson, William Pickerel, Ruben Carrera, Alfredo Castillo and Ande Strittmatter, who were all found guilty of child molestation, Larry Pierson who was found guilty of assault with sexual motivation, Craig Figley who is serving a life sentence for molesting children and Christopher Loftus who was convicted of child rape.

messed up

In one specific example, KING 5 looked at the records for Laurence “Shayne” Hill. Hill was convicted on multiple counts of child molestation in King County in 2005 after he admitted to molesting his 10-year-old and 11-year-old students.

By the end of last year, Hill had received about $334,471.03 from the state retirement system; just over $208,568.16 was money above and beyond what Hill contributed into his own retirement, interest included.

“What! It’s that gut reaction of, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ This person is in prison for this and they are receiving several thousand dollars a month? What?!” exclaimed Anne Marie Gurney, a researcher with the Freedom Foundation, a conservative policy group in Washington state.

Gurney contacted KING 5 with concerns about the state’s pension laws. “To a certain degree, we need to protect our taxpayers,” Gurney said.

At least 25 states, including Alaska, California, and Arizona, have pension forfeiture laws, in other words public employees and/or elected officials convicted of a crime lose at least some aspect of their taxpayer funded retirements. Washington does not have a pension forfeiture law.

“I really think that probably it has never really come to the surface,” said State Senator Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. Bailey is the chair of the Select Committee on Pension Policy.

“I would agree, you know some things are so egregious you really can’t understand how these things can happen,” Bailey said regarding teachers who have committed crimes against children and are still receiving a pension.

Bailey said she’d consider whether public employees who commit a crime should be required to forfeit a portion of their pension, for instance to help pay for incarceration costs. “I think that is only fair, and I think taxpayers would agree,” Bailey said.

Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, said he would be open to considering some kind of pension forfeiture law for future hires, but he would want to make sure whatever penalty was imposed only negatively impacted the person who committed the crime and not his or her dependents.

“I would fight it,” said Kit Raney, President of the Washington Teacher’s Association-Retired. She represents the interests of retired teachers. “So, this is just pure noise and a non-issue as far as I’m concerned,” Raney said.

Raney said she doesn’t believe teachers should lose their pensions under any circumstance. “If a worker commits a crime, it is handled by the legal system. The trial, the conviction is part of the legal system. It is totally separate from the pension system, which they contributed to and earned throughout their career. It’s apples and oranges,” Raney said. Raney accused the Freedom Foundation of being anti-teacher and anti-pension.

Gurney said the issue is not teachers or their pensions, but creating the legal room for taxpayers to have a choice. “I think taxpayers should have a choice if they are going to fund the pension of hardened criminals,” Gurney said.

Any new legislation would be met with by lot of resistance.

For now, Senator Bailey said she’s studying her options and the earliest she would propose a bill would be next year.

DCG


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