Voter will decide future of pensions for corrupt public servants - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

La. voters to decide what happens to pensions of officials convicted of felonies


New Orleans, La.—On November 6, voters statewide will cast ballots on a measure dealing with an issue that has tainted Louisiana's image for decade.

They will decide whether to cement language in the state's constitution which targets public servants, including elected officials and state employees who do not play it straight.

"I think if a person steals from the state, and is employed by the state they should not receive any benefits from the state," said Clyde Robertson, a voter who plans to vote yes for Constitutional Amendment Number 5.

Clearly, there is a history of Louisiana politicians ending up in prison for illegal actions.

''We've had our share of corrupt political officials in this state, and people are appalled by the fact that they're convicted, but they're still eligible for their tax benefits that taxpayers owe, or basically funding and paying for," said UNO Political Scientist Ed Chervenak, Ph.D.

Former Governor Edwin Edwards spent close to a decade in federal prison for corruption.

Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle resigned, and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges following a series of FOX 8 News investigative reports. He awaits sentencing.

And more recently, former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard pleaded guilty to two corruption charges. He also has not received his sentence.

If voters approve the proposed constitutional amendment, it would allow state courts to include forfeiture of all, or part of the retirement benefits of a public official or employee convicted of a felony associated with their public office, or employment.

Many voters are eager to cast a "yes" vote.

"Absolutely, I think it's absurd that these public officials that go to prison still collect their retirement," said David Bordelon.

But the issue is not as black and white for some members of the electorate.

"If it's a momentary indiscretion of one mistake, I don't think that years' worth of work that you've put into pension should just disappear, so I think it depends on the circumstances," said Terra Campiso.

The proposed amendment aside, Dr. Chervenak points out that most corruption cases in Louisiana end up in federal court where seizing assets is common.

"They ask for restitution if you're convicted of these crimes," Chervenak said.

And Chevenak added that actually Louisiana has been slow in presenting this type of legislation to the electorate.

''Twenty-three states already have legislation on the books like this already, so we're actually kind of behind the curve on this," Chervenak continued.

"Beyond the reputation of the state we must look at the citizens of this state who are being abused, and neglected by elected officials," added Robertson.

"Hopefully it will add it as a deterrent because obviously going to prison isn't enough," said Bordelon.

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