Pension Crisis

Doctor Convicted of Child Abuse Still Getting $100,000 Annual Taxpayer-Funded Pension

The laws governing public pensions allow for horrible people to collect government benefits.

|

Vchalup/Dreamstime.com

In September 2018, a Montana jury found Stanley Patrick Weber—formerly a pediatrician who worked with Indian Health Service (IHS)—guilty of four charges related to his abuse of young Native American boys under his care. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison in January, and is currently in a jail cell in South Dakota awaiting trial on yet more child abuse charges.

According to a joint investigation by the Wall Street Journal and Frontline today, Weber will be costing taxpayers a lot of money while he is behind bars. In addition to the costs of incarcerating him, the Journal reports that taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for Weber's pension.

By virtue of his 25 years working as a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps—one of seven uniformed services that funnels doctors to other federal agencies—plus five years' service in the Army, Weber is entitled to an annual pension of roughly $100,000.

Absent a change to federal law, Weber could receive $1.8 million in pension benefits while serving out his current sentence. Periodic cost of living increases could raise that figure higher still.

Public Health Service officers, the Journal/Frontline article notes, can be stripped of their pensions only if they're found guilty of committing crimes while still on active duty. The only exception would be for treason, or if their crime was related to endangering national security.

Government officials have reportedly been pouring over the laws to see if there is any exemption or loophole that would allow them (or allow us) to stop paying Weber, but none has presented itself. Absent a change to federal law, Weber will receive a pension until he dies.

That Weber wasn't arrested, tried, and convicted during his 25 years on the job—despite numerous complaints and whistleblower reports—is itself a huge failure on the part of the federal government. Had they gotten that part right, they wouldn't have to pay Weber a pension now.

That the government is still forced to pay out his pension, however, is an extreme illustration of a separate problem with government pensions, whether offered at the local, state, or federal level: they are often treated as sacrosanct regardless of conduct on the part of individual employees that should disqualify them from receiving a pension.

Recall Scott Peterson, the Sheriff's Deputy who failed to engage the Parkland shooter, who is still receiving an annual $104,000 pension despite his abject failure to protect students under his care.

Back in 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a teacher who had been convicted of 11 counts of purchasing or possessing child pornography was still entitled to collect retirement benefits. A subsequent investigation by the Boston Herald revealed that at least five former teachers were still receiving pension benefits despite having been convicted of child pornography-related crimes.

Then there are the numerous court rulings that have prevented lawmakers in places like Oregon and Illinois from trimming back pension benefits for large masses of public employees whose benefits are busting budgets at unsustainable rates.

Weber's case is uniquely awful and absurd. It nevertheless serves as an admittedly extreme example of how the laws governing public pensions often treat them as sacrosanct even when an employee's individual conduct or basic fiscal reality demands they be trimmed back.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

45 responses to “Doctor Convicted of Child Abuse Still Getting $100,000 Annual Taxpayer-Funded Pension

  1. Why shouldn’t the doctor get a pension?
    Abusing children isn’t as easy as it sounds.

    1. i’m sure PB and Pedo Jeffy are taking notes.

  2. >>>Absent a change to federal law

    there’s your answer, fishbulb.

    1. Probably couldn’t apply retroactively.

      1. for the next guy?

  3. Aside from the questions about the need for a Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the possible failure to go after him while in the service:

    I do have an honest question (the WSJ piece is for subscribers):
    The activities for which he was convicted, occurred after his separation from the Public Health Service, correct?

    Play around with this situation a little:
    John Smith retires from the USMC after serving for 25 years. He is honorably discharged. He is entitled to his pension. A few years after his retirement, he is found guilty of 2nd degree murder and gets an 18 year sentence.

    As far as I know, he is still entitled to his pension, correct?

    This is the same situation.

    1. “guilty of four charges related to his abuse of young Native American boys under his care

    2. I think the difference is between when the crimes occurred, and when he was charged with said crimes.

      Adjusting Bear’s analogy, say Marine Smith is charged for a crime after he retires for something that happened during his enlistment. Does he lose his pension?

      Maybe yes. However according to the article. “”Public Health Service officers, the Journal/Frontline article notes, can be stripped of their pensions only if they’re found guilty of committing crimes while still on active duty.””

      So the Marine may lose his pension, but the Dr. would not.

      1. I dunno. That might be a grammatical argument.

        I would interpret the the clause “while still on active duty” as describing “committing crimes” rather than “found guilty.”

        1. I agree that the grammar is a little confusing.

          I was assuming the case that the activities occurred while on active duty, regardless of when the prosecution occurred. My question above about the Dr. was whether or not the activity he was convicted of took place while a member of the Public Health Service Commission Corps, or was his employment with the IHS a separate job after he separated from the PHSCC.

  4. Government officials have reportedly been *poring* over the laws

  5. And I think the author is mixing 2 different issues here.

    There is very big problem with public pensions as a whole (particularly at the state and local level).

    Then there is the issue of should a person who otherwise meets the service requirements to receive a pension, lose that right if later convicted of ……. after seperation
    any crime?
    any felony?
    a crime involving a child?

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure why a pension should be treated differently than any other asset.

      1. The crimes occurred while he was accruing his pension. Under the interpretation here, even if he was arrested and tried while under active duty, he could quit the day before he is sentenced and retain his pension. Instead he should lose all accrual for years over which the crimes occurred.

  6. Sigh. If terrible people earn a pension, then terrible people get a pension. We have the criminal justice system to punish them for their crimes.

    1. Yes. All the convoluted logic in trying to justify taking his pension is bullshit.

      Criminal penalties involve fines and/or jail/prison time. Taking someone’s pension isn’t a criminal punishment, that would be a matter of Civil law not Criminal law. They’re two separate issues and just because he’s a dirty pedo doesn’t mean we get to ignore our system of law.

  7. And the teachers in Mass? Were they convicted of child porn activities while still a teacher? Or were they convicted for things they did AFTER they retired?

    1. Did they victimize school children? Did their job aid and abet their crime?

      1. I don’t disagree with where you are coming from. I would agree that if a teacher was convicted of possessing and/or distributing child porn while a public school teacher, BUT had nothing to do with that how that person was acting as a teacher, then it shouldn’t play into their pension decision. Although there is at least a line of sight there. If the activities regarding child porn all occurred after retirement, than there is absolutely no connection at all.

  8. I agree that people who use their office to commit crimes should not be eligible for pensions from that office. I think the doc in this case fits that description, even if he wasn’t charged/convicted until after he retired. He committed his crimes with the facilitation of his position.

    I don’t think people should lose their pensions for crimes unrelated to their job.

    And, I don’t think people should lose their pensions for cowardice. Court precedent is that cops don’t have a duty to put themselves at risk. So stripping him of his pension is a non starter. Reassigning him, sure.

  9. WTF? Why aren’t his victims collecting this money as compensation for his crimes?

    -jcr

  10. WTF? Why aren’t his victims collecting this money as compensation for his crimes?

    -jcr

  11. So felons should be reinstated as voters. Sex crimes registries are bad. People convicted of crimes not related to their government jobs should lose they their pensions permanently. Punishing people for crimes they may have committed during a specific time frame but were not convicted of is a great idea.

    I am not sure how all those fit into a consistent worldview, other than the person holding them is against government pensions as a rule.

  12. This whole pension thing is odd. No, make that something stronger. Macabre.

    If he worked at General Motors, would you want him stripped of his pension? You know, so his wife and kids had no means of support while he’s in jail? That makes sense to you?

    I suppose the real answer is to get rid of pensions altogether. I doubt there would be an outcry of “Wait, he goes to jail but he gets to keep his 401k?”

    1. If the crime was related to his work at GM. Yes. Say he intentionally ignored safety regulations, retired, and then led to the deaths of thousands. His pension should be stripped as he did not complete the terms of his contract at GM voiding the pension accrual.

  13. You guys do know that pensions are deferred compensation, right?

    I mean, you can argue about whether a defined benefits pension should have ever existed (they shouldn’t, defined contribution pensions should have been the standard), but its still deferred compensation. Without that its money you would have paid up front for this dude anyway.

    So, barring arguing that we can’t afford to pay these pensions – they belong to the people who’ve earned them.

    1. And there’s also the issue of how bad a crime (or how many crimes of a given badness) do you have to commit before it overshadows the value of the work you’ve done.

      We’ve already assigned a value to the work he’s been doing – how much is each of these crimes worth?

    2. He violated the terms of his employment by committing crimes related to his employment. He shouldn’t get accrual of benefits when he is in violation of terms of his employment.

      1. Does that apply to every violation?

        If he had a gun in his glove compartment while at the office would that also be grounds for taking his pension?

        What about if he was caught shoplifting a candy bar?

        What if his employment contract specified he had to have a haircut every week and he got one once at the 8 day mark?

      2. A lot of things could violate terms of employment that might get you only a reprimand and not fired.

        If you pop positive on a THC test should the company send you to counseling and take your pension, or stop allowing your benefits to accrue?

  14. How does this compare to private pensions, and personal retirement investments?

    If someone retired from Boeing with a fat defined-benefit union pension, and was later convicted of pedo while employed at Boeing, would his pension disappear as part of the criminal conviction?

    If that Boeing retiree depended on a 401k, would his account be confiscated as part of the criminal conviction?

    And what about civil suits — that seems like a nice target for some restitution.

    1. Why do we keep talking about unrelated crimes?!? This story relates crimes committed related to his job. Can we talk about the facts of this case?

  15. The writer is essentially implying that the penalty for child abuse should be greater than provided by law. But he has not properly given a basis for this argument, other than the unjustified implication that a government-provided pension is somehow special.

    Clever use of the phrase “government benefit” doesn’t improve the argument. A pension is not a “government benefit” in the usual sense of the word. Usually a “government benefit” is some type of unearned subsidy.

    As other comments pointed out, a pension is just deferred compensation, and once it has been earned, it should be considered a type of property that may not be retroactively forfeited without just compensation. No more than a defined contribution retirement plan should be. No more than a house or a car should be.

    I think Reason should require better logic and more precise language in. Please keep the grandiose exaggeration limited to click-bait headlines, and have articles themselves be better argued.

    Don’t give libertarianism a bad name with flawed logic.

  16. By virtue of his 25 years working as a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps…plus five years’ service in the Army, Weber is entitled to an annual pension of roughly $100,000.

    So what’s the alternative? Expropriating his pension (and thus presumably his only means of earning enough to live on) will only throw him (and his family) onto social security, and thus onto a system of government-funded payments anyway.

    Or should he be deprived of those as well? In which case he and his family will (presumably) be thrown out onto the streets to live in gutters and eating out of dustbins. Is that the intention.

    He may have committed a terrible crime, but there comes a point where punishments start to look less like justice and more like vengeance. (See 8th Amendment.) If civil asset forfeiture of cars, cash, and houses is seen as inexcusable nd excessive, how is civil asset forfeiture of a pension any more so?

    Do all crimes lead to such a penalty being imposed or only those we personally despise? Meaning fraudsters and murderers get to keep their pensions but traitors, rapists, and pedophiles don’t?

    Government officials have reportedly been pouring over the laws to see if there is any exemption or loophole that would allow them (or allow us) to stop paying Weber, but none has presented itself.”

    I thought courts of law decided punishment for crimes committed in America. Is that now to change? If so, where does that put due process?

  17. Isn’t that how it should be for all of us?

    A guaranteed, basic income that’s livable, regardless of who you are or what you do?

    It’s called compassion, people.

    1. even those who don’t want to work

  18. $100k a year over 18 years? With some back-of-the-napkin calculations, and expecting it to last roughly thirty years, that’s roughly equivalent to a $1.5million 401(k) or comparable investment vehicle.

    Would you be fine with the government seizing someone’s $1.5 million 401(k) because they’ve got a felony conviction? Pretty sure that while many states have laws about felons not profiting from their crimes, seizing their non-criminal assets is usually frowned upon. In fact, I recall a recent “success” story of a guy who finally got his truck back after some state inappropriately seized it.

    Is this just Reason’s hate-boner for pensions?

    1. Defined benefits are in agreement with employment conditions set at hiring. Violating those terms by committing crimes under the guise of your job should void those agreements.

      401k plans are largely contributions by an individual and not a derived benefit.

  19. Can his victims sue him and get his pension docked to pay the damages?

    1. Government worker so he probably can’t be sued.

  20. I basically make about $6,000-$8,000 a month online. It’s enough to comfortably replace my old jobs income, especially considering I only work about 10-13 hours a week from home. I was amazed how easy it was after I tried it? http://www.home.jobs89.com

  21. I basically make about $6,000-$8,000 a month online. It’s enough to comfortably replace my old jobs income, especially considering I only work about 10-13 hours a week from home. I was amazed how easy it was after I tried it? http://www.home.jobs89.com

  22. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    >>>>>>>>>> http://www.GeoSalary.com

  23. Surely, many people convicted of crimes not related to their government jobs should lose they their pensions permanently.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.