In the wake of the revelation that former Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster will keep his $93,000 annual pension despite being a convicted felon, a Fresno City Councilman Thursday said he wants to change pension rules for employees found guilty of crimes.
During the council meeting Thursday morning, Councilman Steve Brandau said he would ask in a closed session about employees who commit felonies but keep their pensions.
The session was to be held behind closed doors because it involved personnel and legal matters.
Afterward, Brandau said he would “try to change the policy” so a similar situation cannot recur.
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“I'm going to get some options from the city attorney,” Brandau said.
An ordinance or council resolution is needed to impose a pension penalty in cases such as Foster’s, which are rare, city spokesman Mark Standriff said.
He said Mayor Lee Brand is drafting such an ordinance.
Foster was convicted Tuesday in federal court in Fresno for conspiracy to distribute heroin and marijuana. The jury hung on six other charges, and federal prosecutors are deciding whether to retry those.
The No. 2 police officer in the city of Fresno is dealing heroin and he gets to keep his pension? That’s atrocious.
Fresno Councilman Garry Bredefeld
State law requires that public employees who commit a felony related to their official duties have their pension reduced. But the city is not bound by the law because Fresno has its own retirement system and is a charter city, and never took action to put its rules in line with the state law.
Councilman Garry Bredefeld said the city needs to get in line with state law.
“The No. 2 police officer in the city of Fresno is dealing heroin and he gets to keep his pension? That’s atrocious,” Bredefeld told The Fresno Bee on Wednesday. “Certainly, he needs to lose his pension.”
Standriff said even if the state rule was in effect in Fresno, it would have little effect on Foster’s pension. That’s because under the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act, the punishment only applies to the pension accrued after the felony is committed, and previous accruals cannot be forfeited.
Currently, no local ordinances exist to cut pensions of employees convicted of a felony. Imposing such a change would likely require negotiating with labor groups that represent city employees, Standriff said.
State law prohibits the city from retroactively punishing anyone regarding their pension, he said.