HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A Pennsylvania appeals court has ordered the State Employees’ Retirement Board to reinstate the pension benefits of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
In an order Friday, Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini said the board “had no reasonable basis whatsoever” to find Sandusky was a Penn State employee when the acts underlying his child sexual abuse convictions occurred.
The court ordered the board to reinstate the pension retroactively and to pay interest.
Sandusky’s $4,900-a-month pension was canceled October 9, 2012 after he was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys. The board also denied survivorship benefits to his wife, Dottie, who stands to collect 50 percent of her husband’s pension if she survives him.
The State Employees’ Retirement System had determined the former coach remained a Penn State employee after he retired from the football team in 1999, until at least the end of 2008, and his public employment placed him in a position to commit acts against boys between July 2005 and December 2008.
The Pension Forfeiture Act allows the state to revoke the pensions of public employees for crimes related to public office or public employment. While the law did not include sexual offenses against children when enacted in 1978, a 2004 amendment defined the crimes covered to include sexual assaults committed by a school employee against a student.
Sandusky appealed to SERS, arguing that he was not a Penn State employee after 1999 but received only a severance payment and fringe benefits.
As part of his retirement agreement with the university, Sandusky elected to receive a monthly annuity and received a lump-sum payment of $168,000, complimentary season tickets to Penn State football and basketball games, free access to university fitness and training facilities, and an office in the East Area locker room complex.
Penn State also agreed to work with Sandusky on The Second Mile charity he founded in 1977, and the former coach was paid for three speaking engagements between 2000 and 2007.
A hearing examiner in June 2014 recommended the board reinstate Sandusky’s pension because it had improperly applied the forfeiture law to him. The board went against that recommendation and denied Sandusky’s appeal in December.