Former Pittsburgh Chief Harper seeks to have his pension restored

Nate Harper reported to federal prison Tuesday, a day after his attorney appealed a decision to take away the former Pittsburgh police chief’s $5,260 monthly pension, arguing that none of the crimes of which he was convicted are listed under the law as a grounds for forfeiture.

In a 21-page brief filed Monday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, Chester County attorney Samuel C. Stretton posed a number of other reasons why Harper should retain his pension.

Among them, Mr. Stretton wrote, is that the forfeiture is unconstitutional because it is “grossly excessive and punitive in nature.”

At worst, Mr. Stretton argued, Harper should be given back the contributions he made into his pension over an unblemished 30-year career before he became chief in 2006.

Harper pleaded guilty in federal court to four counts of failure to file income tax returns and one count of conspiracy in connection with his involvement in misappropriating roughly $70,000 in city money.

In February he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Harper reported Tuesday to FCI Pekin, the camp attached to the medium security prison south of Peoria, Ill.

In December, the Policeman’s Relief and Pension Fund voted to forfeit Harper’s pension and to return the balance of his payments into the fund, without interest.

The pension board told Harper in a letter that it would “retain your contribution of dues at this time to the extent necessary to satisfy restitution or other court-ordered actions.”

Mr. Stretton objected to that decision, writing, “…what he paid in is his, which has to be returned … The pension board should not be the collection agency for any government agency or client.”

Jonathan D. Silver:, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg. First Published April 1, 2014 5:00 PM


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