Holcomb sent bill allowing pension restitution for stolen public funds

A bill that would allow taxpayers to recoup stolen funds from public officials’ pensions has received a few tweaks, but the bill’s chief aim has remained untouched.

The House of Representatives voted 81-0 in favor of a conference committee report presented Monday, approving technical corrections and sending House Enrolled Act 1192 to Gov. Eric Holcomb. The proposed law would enable public funds stolen by government officials to be reimbursed to taxpayers and communities from the perpetrator’s pension fund.

According to bill author Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, original language in the HB 1192 would have allowed the affected governmental unit to freeze a public servant’s pension once criminal charges were filed for theft. The goal was to prevent individuals from cashing out their pensions and hitting the road, he said, but a change was made for certain exceptions.

“If someone accused of public theft is receiving disability or retirement benefits, then those would not be affected, they would be excluded, but some of the pensions can still be frozen if it goes through the courts,” Lauer said.

The bill has otherwise remained intact, maintaining its goal of providing an option for relief in the event that all other avenues of refund are exhausted and unrecoverable.

HEA 1192 still requires a conviction and a restitution order from a judge to garnish from a public servant’s pension fund and includes all public officials, including judges and prosecutors. 

“In the rare case when a public servant may betray our public trust and steal from the public, this egregious act not only depletes resources but erodes trust in government and harms the image of all our public servants across the state,” Lauer said. “This bill is simply good government.”

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