With of the goal of holding individuals convicted of sexual assault and related crimes accountable, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Eric Houghtaling, Carol Murphy and Patricia Egan Jones to require a person who holds public office or employment to forfeit their pension or retirement benefits if they are convicted of sexual contact, lewdness, sexual assault or corruption of public resources was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on Friday.
“New Jersey citizens should feel comfortable that the people they choose to represent them are honest and decent,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “State employees and elected officials are entrusted with the responsibility of being advocates in their communities. Those who have betrayed the taxpayers’ trust should not continue to benefit.”
The new law (formerly A-3766) adds the above convictions to the list of certain crimes for which public officeholders and employees will be forced to give up their pension or retirement benefits when the offense is related directly to the person’s performance in, or circumstances flowing from, the specific public office or employment.
“Plain and simple, everyone should feel safe in their place of work,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “This type of behavior should not be tolerated under any circumstance, and it is important that we ensure the proper consequences are in place.”
“This law could not come at a more appropriate time,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “With campaigns such as the #MeToo Movement being so prominent, it is important that we protect our constituents as well as reassure them that their voices are being heard, and those representing their voices reflect the same values they embody.”
“It has been inspiring to see how victims of sexual assault have created an open dialogue and provoked change in our country to put an end to this disgusting matter,” said Jones (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This bill will help to show our citizens that, in New Jersey, we are taking action.”
Along with the addition of sexual assault crimes, a corruption of public resources conviction in the first degree will constitute forfeiture of a person’s pension or retirement benefits under the bill. Such a crime occurs when someone knowingly uses or makes disposition of a public resource valued at $500,000 or more for an unauthorized purpose, when that public resource is to be used for a specified government function or public service. This includes money paid by the government; transfer by the government of an assets of value for less than fair market price; fees, loans or other obligations normally required for a contract, that are paid reduced or waived by the government; money loaned by the government to be repaid on a contingent basis; money loaned by an entity upon a guarantee provided by the government; grants awarded by the government; and credits applied by the government against repayment obligations.
The measure passed the full Assembly in September, 79-0, and the Senate in May, 37-0.