Local Politics

Bill Would Strip Felons of State Pensions

Posted February 15, 2007
Updated February 16, 2007

— Despite his conviction Thursday, former House Speaker Jim Black remains eligible for a hefty state pension.

A 22-year veteran of the state House, Black has earned enough time as a state employee to qualify for a monthly pension of $3,400.

Black isn't the only convicted politician collecting a government pension:

  • Former Congressman Frank Ballance, who is serving time after being convicted of mail fraud and money laundering, receives more than $1,400 a month.
  • Former state Rep. Michael Decker, whose party switch helped Black remain in the speaker's chair four years ago, is collecting $1,300 a month despite pleading guilty to an extortion conspiracy.

Some people want to change state law to prevent such payments.

”Anyone who does get convicted of a felony or abuse of office should not be able to collect state money from taxpayers,” said state Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger is drafting legislation that would strip pensions from lawmakers who breach the public trust. He thinks it could have prevented Decker from switching parties for a $50,000 payment.

“If there was some thought that he would have lost his pension, maybe he would have thought twice and not engaged in the conduct he engaged in,” Berger said.

If the bill becomes law, it would apply only to future cases, so Black and the others wouldn't be affected by it.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said he isn't sure if cutting off retirement benefits is the answer. He noted that Black provided many years of service to the state.

“Do you say one bad one is enough to wipe out 24?” said Rand, D-Cumberland.

Cowell said the issue is one of fairness that she expects will get bipartisan support. Similar legislation could become law at the national level, she said.

The U.S. House and Senate passed individual bills that would expand laws to deny pensions to lawmakers convicted of crimes. Congress is working on a compromise bill.

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  • JustMyView Feb 19, 2007

    Do you say one bad one is enough to wipe out 24?” said Rand, D-Cumberland - yes!

  • r-n-r Feb 18, 2007

    This scumbag did not all of a sudden become crooked. This bill will never pass because they are all crooks. This bill should only apply to the so called "lawmakers"

  • BlindJustice Feb 16, 2007

    Speaker Black deserves his pension. His crime was victimless. All the while he's needs to pay his debt to the people of this state. This man had an obvious lapse of judgement. Money drives the worst out of people as is the case with Speaker Black. Folks are quick to forget the strides he made while in the legislure. Those aren't erased by a mistake.

  • mvnull Feb 16, 2007

    So, you should lose your pension for felony littering? In NC, all that would take is to throw a compact fluorescent bulb out the window of your car -- maybe even so much as putting a fluorescent tube in your trash instead of a hazardous waste collection site. If so, it should be fairly easy to balance the NC budget by finding a set of felonies like this one, nail a bunch of state retirees, then raid the pension plan.

  • superman Feb 16, 2007

    Any state employee, or other public official-- should lose their pension if they convicted of a felony. Give them back what they paid in --plus interest and let them rot in prison. Dr. Black u going to look so good in brown clothes.

  • my2cents Feb 16, 2007

    I too hope to receive retirement from the state, but if I am convicted of a felony I would only expect to get what i paid in plus interest of coarse.

  • mvnull Feb 16, 2007

    Some state employees are vested in something other than the state pension system. This means you will be punishing some (former) state employees and not others. I can understand your emotions and share them myself (Black was the person who turned me away from the Democratic Party), but think this through. Laws written in anger don't normally turn out very well. Let Cowell get her 15 minutes of fame over this, then think through if this is really a good thing. It may be the best thing, but let our brains decide this, not our .... well, you get the idea.

  • Dave Green Feb 16, 2007

    "Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger is drafting legislation that would strip pensions from lawmakers who breach the public trust."
    Wouldn't it be nice to extend the penalty to ALL government employees (state, local and municipal) who betray the public trust, not just elected officials?

    Come on, Mr. Berger, it's time we held all of these people accountable.

  • painina Feb 16, 2007

    i say give him back what he put in, no interest, and let him try to live off of SS like the elderly do,and see how well he fairs!

  • TechRescue Feb 16, 2007


    And I agree with capecru - Give him back every penny he paid into it himself, no interest, and write him off.

    And the ting about "won't affect Jim Black" is a crock. They can pass a retroactive tax increase, so stop this now - cut Ballance and Decker off as well.

    If I shoot somebody tomorrow, is Tony Rand going to say "Does one bad day wipe out 17,885 where he didn't kill anybody?"