Connecticut AG Targets Pensions of Corrupt Officials

January 16, 2007 ( - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is looking to take back the pensions of corrupt public officials - including none other than former Nutmeg State Governor John G. Rowland.

“My proposal would include the governor – and certainly he would be as deserving of the application as anyone,” the attorney general said Thursday, according to the (Manchester, Connecticut) Journal Inquirer.   Under the proposal drafted by Blumenthal, a Superior Court judge could revoke or reduce the pensions and retirement benefits of any official convicted of a crime related to his or her office.

Blumenthal last week said he would use the federal corruption convictions of two former top Rowland aides, Lawrence E. Alibozek, the former governor’s deputy chief of staff, and Peter N. Ellef, the former governor’s co-chief of staff and Alibozek’s boss, to push for his proposal.   “Both the Alibozek and Ellef pensions seem severely problematic in light of what they did to betray the trust and corrupt the contracting process while they were in office, and I will use their examples as emblems of the need for reform,” Blumenthal said, according to the report.   “Their actions speak a lot louder than my words for stopping pensions to corrupt public officials.”

Cutoff Protections

Blumenthal said that while he has made similar proposals in each of the legislative sessions since 2004, his latest proposal, which he said he expected to submit within the next few weeks, would contain “protections against arbitrary or unfair” pension cutoffs.   According to the report, Blumenthal said he believes the primary reason his previous proposals have died with each legislative session is concern about lower-level employees being harassed with the threat of losing their pensions.   The report also said it would exclude misdeeds regarding private affairs or family issues, and that it would be applied only after the court considers factors such as the amount of responsibility the official had, his financial capacity to pay, and the impact on family.

Rowland, who served just short of 10 years in office before resigning in disgrace and subsequently striking a plea deal to avoid multiple felony charges, is eligible to receive a $50,000-per-year pension when he turns 55 in 2012, according to the Journal Inquirer.   The former governor served 10 months in a federal prison camp in Pennsylvania after his 2004 conviction of conspiracy to steal honest service.

Other Actions

Late last year former Illinois Governor George Ryan has filed a lawsuit trying to hang on to at least some of his $197,000-a-year state pension, stripped from him by the state's retirement board following a string of convictions.   While he was convicted last April of mail fraud, money laundering, extortion, obstruction of justice and bribery while he was secretary of state and governor between 1991 and 2003, his lawsuit argues he should be able to keep the $65,000 in annual pension payments he earned before 1991, while he served as a county board member, legislator and lieutenant governor (see  Fallen Illinois Governor Fights to Keep Part of Pension ).

Last week United States Senators Ken Salazar (D-Colorado) and John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced their ethics reform legislation, The Congressional Pension Accountability Act, or "The Duke Cunningham Act." The bill targets the so-called "culture of corruption" in Washington by cancelling taxpayer-funded pension benefits to Members of Congress who are convicted of serious ethics offenses - crimes such as bribery, conspiracy.   "The only thing crazier than giving a member of Congress convicted of a crime a federal pension is the fact that we still need a bill to prevent a convict from receiving their pension," said Senator Salazar (see  Kerry, Salazar "Duke" It Out with Corruption-Tinged Pensions ).