Last week, we reported that ex-San Francisco cop Paul Makaveckas is facing bribery charges for allegedly shaking down cabdrivers hoping to pass their permit tests. We also noted that the 65-year-old is earning a pension of $101,650 a year.
If convicted of the former, will he lose the latter? That's no sure thing. It turns out San Francisco does not keep a master list of crimes committed on the job that will lose city employees their pensions. Rather, it uses the broad term "moral turpitude crimes." What's that encompass? As one city official put it to us, "It's one of those vague terms lawyers use to ensure there will always be a need for lawyers."
While a crime-by-crime listing of what falls under the aegis of "moral turpitude" doesn't exist, the city attorney's office uses the following passage from a 1994 legal advice letter to somewhat define the term:
CourtsPerhaps in divine retribution for this incredible vagueness, a 2006 court case found the city charter's moral turpitude section did not entitle it to strip away disability pensions. Parsing the charter, the court ruled that "the disqualification language is applicable only to service retirement" -- not disability retirement. In other words, if you were convicted of embezzling on the job, the city could strip your pension. If you fell down the stairs, and then got yourself convicted of embezzlement, your disability pension was safe.
have not provided an exact definition of the phrase "moral turpitude."
As the California Supreme Court has explained, "the concept
of moral turpitude escapes precise definition." (Chadwick v. State
Bar (1989) 49 Cal.3d 103, 110; Henry H. v. Board of Pension Commissioners
(1983) 149 Cal.App.3d 965, 975-76.) It generally has been defined
as "an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social
duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary
to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man."
(In re Craig (1938) 12 Cal 2d. 93, 97.) In addition, "it has
been described as any crime or misconduct without excuse or any dishonesty
or immoral act." (Chadwick, 49 Cal.3d at 110) The definition
does not depend on whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor. (Id.)
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