Conviction Not Required for Pension Board Action

September 9, 2009 ( - A Rhode Island state judge has declared that the Providence Retirement Board can cut or reduce a retiring worker's pension under a law governing dishonorable government service, even when the person does not stand convicted of a crime.

A news report on television station WPRI’s Web site saidAssociate Justice Michael A. Silverstein of the Rhode Island Superior Court, ruling for the first time on the issue, asserted that the city’s Honorable Service Ordinance (HSO) did not require a criminal conviction or a plea bargain before the board can move against a pensioner’s benefits.    

“In applying the Ordinance as written, the Court finds that if the City Council intended the HSO to permit Board action to revoke or reduce an employee’s municipal pension only in situations where the employee was convicted of a crime related to his or her public employment…the drafters would have explicitly provided for such within the text of the ordinance,” Silverstein contended.

The decision gives the Retirement Board broad power in punishing retirees they find acted dishonorably on the job, the news story said.

According to the Web site, the highest profile case pits former Providence Police Chief Urbano Prignano against the Retirement Board, which ruled last year to completely revoke his $64,000 annual pension. Prignano was implicated in the police department’s cheating-for-promotions scandal.

The 1999 city law provides that “payment of an employee’s retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payments … shall be for honorable service only.”

The Silverstein ruling is available here .