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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Often Do San Francisco Workers Lose Their Pensions?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 5:59 AM

click to enlarge It takes a lot to chip away one's pension...
  • It takes a lot to chip away one's pension...

Yesterday we reported what it takes for a city worker to lose out on his or her pension. You have to be convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude" while in the commission of your job -- though the city doesn't have an official definition of what, exactly, "moral turpitude" is

If the city is hoping to free itself of its massive pension obligation by setting up the equivalent of a police Robbery Abatement Team and entrapping city employees en masse into moral turp crimes -- well, good luck with that. It turns out city workers losing their pensions is such a rare occurrence, the city doesn't even track how often it happens.

The best answer we could get on the frequency of city employees having their retirement benefits stripped because of criminal convictions was "two or three times in the past eight years," from the San Francisco Employee Retirement System.

One of these two or three employees, incidentally, is not Paul Held. The former auto machinist pleaded guilty in 2005 to stealing auto parts. But his lawyers noted that Held was on a disability pension -- and, due to a drafting error, the moral turpitude provisions did not apply to disability pensions, just regular ones (As we put it before, "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").

This loophole was closed via Prop. C in 2008. Not surprisingly, no convicted embezzler on disability has come along since that time to prove its necessity.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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