TRENTON – More job-related crimes would cost public workers their entire pension, if a bill passed unanimously Monday by the Assembly makes it into law.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, said it’s appropriate to expand the list of pension-forfeiting offenses to all first- and second-degree crimes.

There are currently 23 specific crimes that cost a public worker their pension, while in other cases the retirement checks can be reduced by the pension boards.

“Our bill strikes a balance, and if you violate the public trust, you don’t receive a taxpayer-funded pension,” Moriarty said.

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Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, R-Morris, sought to have the bill’s scope expanded before the vote, but Democrats rejected the idea.

“The bill should go farther and not be limited to crimes related to the job,” Dunn said. “We could do better. You abuse it, you lose it.”

Moriarty said the last-second amendment went “way too far” and noted Republicans supported the proposal without suggesting any changes in a committee hearing last week.

Canva/Townsquare Media photo illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media photo illustration
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Moriarty cited as an example somebody who drives an all-terrain vehicle on a farm where they shouldn’t be and does $2,000 of damage by crashing into a fence. He said that would be a third-degree crime covered by the amendment.

“And you could have a person who maybe had a 20-year career as a police officer would have to give up their pension because they made some silly mistake on an ATV on a farm,” Moriarty said. “That goes too far. I don’t think that’s right.”

Dunn said the criticism misrepresented the proposed amendment.

“This is about those that violate the public trust,” Dunn said. “And if you violate the public trust, it’s not when you’re either just on duty or off. You never go off duty.”

The bill also changes the factors to be considered by the pension boards when deciding whether to entirely revoke someone’s pension in cases it’s not required, emphasizing the nature of the misconduct, the relationship between the misconduct and the person’s public duties and the person’s moral turpitude.

Additional factors could only be used subsequently to mitigate this full forfeiture to a partial forfeiture.

Where a forfeiture is warranted, a person would receive a refund of their contributions, perhaps with accrued interest.

The bill is now before the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

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