The state's retirement board is now reviewing the pensions of two former state troopers, following their sentencing on Tuesday for fraudulently receiving overtime pay.
Former lieutenant David Wilson and former trooper Heath McAuliffe were each sentenced to one day in prison, with federal judges ruling that their time had already been served.
But now that the sentencing is over, the two men may see more penalties, since a review of their state pensions is kicking into gear.
Later this month, the retirement board will decide whether to refer the two cases to an independent hearing officer. After hearings are held, that officer would make recommendations to the board, which would determine if the pensions should be forfeited.
"The member would lose the right to a monthly ongoing pension payment," explained Nick Favorito, executive director of the state employees' retirement system. "They would be only able to keep the money that they've contributed over the course of their employment. Also, they would give up any interest that's accrued to their account."
Any retirement distribution they may have already received would be deducted from the amount they'd receive.
"But we're several steps away from that," Favorito said.
Hearings on the two other troopers sentenced so far are scheduled for early next month.
For Pioneer Institute Research Director and former state Inspector General Greg Sullivan, it's clear what should happen.
"I think in the case of the state police officers who violated the public trust, brought shame upon a great department of the state police, they should, in my opinion, forfeit their pensions," Sullivan said.
"There's a good reason why the legislature's created these tough laws," he said. "Because it's a deterrent."
People in state government have many opportunities to break the law and steal public money, Sullivan said. "But the biggest threat against those people is the fact that they could lose their pension."
However, Sullivan said, not every broken law should lead to the forfeiture of a pension. A state commission was created to study the issue after the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled forfeitures of pensions were excessive in some cases.
"Under the U.S. Constitution, you can't have excessive fines," Sullivan said. "So the question is, is the utter loss of your pension an excessive fine for a certain crime?"
In 2017, the special commission recommended a tiered system for which kinds of offenses lead to the loss of a state pension.
A bill to create that tiered systemwas introduced last year, and was reintroduced this January. It's been referred to the House Committee on Public Service.