House bonuses will pad pensions

Democratic aides who lost jobs in legislative scandal will get higher annual payouts

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HARRISBURG -- Several top Democratic aides embroiled in a legislative bonus scandal lost their jobs last week, but they can keep benefiting from the bonuses for years to come.

The bonuses will add hundreds -- and in some cases, thousands -- to their annual pensions.

House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese initially said the bonuses would not be included in compensation totals used to calculate pensions, but that turned out to be wrong.

"Initially we weren't sure and then we received clarification," Tom Andrews, Mr. DeWeese's spokesman, said yesterday.

Michael Manzo, ousted last week as Mr. DeWeese's longtime chief of staff, will be eligible for pension payments of roughly $47,000 a year when he reaches full retirement age of 60. If he hadn't received a $20,250 bonus last year, those payments would be about $2,300 less, according to calculations by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette based on salary and service information provided by the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System.

If he starts collecting now, at age 38, his pension would be roughly $14,000 a year. His salary was $151,000 a year.

Mr. Manzo is one of seven aides who were forced out of their jobs last week as Attorney General Tom Corbett continued an investigation into whether leaders made illegal payments to staffers, including bonuses to compensate them for campaign work.

The seven received bonuses ranging from $3,565 to $25,065, and most of them worked on campaigns for legislative leaders last year.

Those bonuses will end up boosting pensions by an average of about $1,700 a year if collected at full retirement age.

Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg think tank that has been studying the state's pension liability, said the situation "highlights a number of problems with our benefits system when you have these kinds of parting gifts."

Caucus personnel director Earl J. Mosley, for example, received a $7,445 bonus last year, which boosts his pension eligibility from roughly $67,000 a year to $69,800 at full retirement age.

If Mr. Mosley starts collecting now, at age 52, he would receive about $43,400.

Recently ousted policy analyst Brett Cott, who is just shy of reaching the five years of service to be vested, is not eligible for a state pension.

The others who abruptly left their jobs last week and who will get pension boosts because of the bonuses are director of staffing and administration Scott Brubaker, administrative specialist Lauren McClure, information technology specialist Eric Webb and director of information technology Stephen A. Keefer.

They are among about 700 House Democratic staffers who shared in $1.9 million in bonuses given by the caucus last year. The state attorney general's office and a grand jury are investigating whether those bonuses were paid for work on political campaigns, which would be illegal.

Pensions are based on years of service, job classification and compensation in the employees' 12 consecutive highest-earning quarters.


Tracie Mauriello can be reached at tmauriello@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141.


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