Court: State can take pension of inspector over $300 bribe
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey officials did not violate the state constitution when they took the full pension earned by a municipal inspector who admitted taking a $300 bribe, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The court, in a 5-1 ruling, determined that the Legislature had established a public pension based on the pre-condition of honorable service, rejecting Bennie Anderson’s contention that taking it away represented a fine. The decision upheld a ruling made by a state appellate court.
Justice Barry Albin disagreed with his colleagues, saying the complete forfeiture of Anderson’s pension for an isolated crime for which he received a probationary sentence and modest fine was excessive. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner did not participate in the case.
Anderson was employed by Jersey City for nearly 40 years and amassed a pension that entitled him to payments of $60,173 a year. In 2017, when Anderson was already retired, a city property owner said he had offered and paid him a $300 bribe to change the tax description on a house.
Anderson eventually pleaded guilty to using his position to attempt to obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by extortion. Jersey City then reduced his pension to $47,918, but the state then sought the forfeiture of his full pension income and any related benefits.
Anderson’s attorney, Nirmalan Nagulendran, had argued that the pension forfeiture violated the excessive fines clause of the state constitution. He said the pension would have paid out more than $1 million in benefits over his client’s expected lifespan — and that it had been vested and in pay status.