Ex-Sheriff's Misdeeds Cause Pension Exclusion

October 24, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An ex-New Jersey sheriff's pension calculation will not include his $98,325 salary after he pleaded guilty to misdeeds such as using his deputies to help raise reelection funds, pension plan trustees have decided.

According to a news report in the Bergen (New Jersey) Record, the board of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System made the decision after ruling that former Sheriff Joseph Ciccone’s conduct was directly related to his duties as sheriff and constituted a violation of public trust.

However the board agreed to allow Ciccone’s two years as sheriff to be credited toward his 20 years of public service, which makes him eligible for half of his final salary as a police officer, the Record story said

County officials estimated Ciccone would be eligible to receive an annual $36,000 pension, compared with $49,162 if his sheriff’s salary was included in the calculations.

The former law enforcement official pleaded guilty in January 2001 to charges of official misconduct and demanding campaign contributions from public officials. In exchange for his plea and resignation, prosecutors agreed not to recommend a prison term, or to contest his pension application, according to the Record.

The Record story said Ciccone, who is on five years’ probation, admitted using a variety of schemes to raise money illegally for his reelection campaign. According to the story, tactics included forcing his officers to sell tickets to fundraising events and selling hundreds of “honorary special deputy” badges for as much as $1,500 apiece.

Local politicians weren’t happy with Ciccone’s plea and subsequent deal with prosecutors.

“All of us agree that we don’t like it,” Anthony Cassano, chairman of the Bergen County Board of Freeholders, told the Record. “We don’t think that Sheriff Ciccone should get credit for the time he served as sheriff. But it’s a slap in the face of the taxpayers of Bergen County, since he cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits that we’re still dealing with, plus the embarrassment of police professionals all over.”