Ray Wood in court in April.

The case of convicted ex-cop Ray Wood and others throughout the state underscore the need for tougher legislation to deter major crimes or penalize those who commit them in the course of their official duties.

Wood remains entitled to full pension benefits, as are all other former public employees convicted of felonies, even crimes related to their work.

Wood was recently sentenced to six months in jail for embezzling more than $100,000 from the Hollister police union over a six-year period before his retirement at the end of 2010.

While Wood’s case certainly raises an alarm bell – he will make around $80,000 per year in retirement pay until his death – there are others throughout the state that offer even more egregious examples of violating the public’s trust, such as teachers suspected of committing lewd acts against students.

In almost every felony case involving public workers, the affected convicts are entitles to full pension benefits – even while imprisoned. Gov. Jerry Brown and other legislators are on the right track in proposing legislation to broaden the applicability of the pension forfeiture law in California. As it now stands, the law applies only to elected officers guilty of corruption.

That must change. When any public employee commits a felony in the course of their official duties, they should not be entitled to full pension benefits. They should, at the least, lose all funds – along with interest earned – paid by the taxpayers.  

There would have to be a formula to calculate an amount still due to such felons – one that includes financial consideration for spouses – but it is time to send a message that would deter government corruption and other severe misconduct while working on the public’s dime.

A pension, after all, is meant to reward employees for long-held dedication to the organization and its mission. Anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that Wood – a police officer who stole from the union over which he presided – fulfilled his end of the deal.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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