Will This Crimminal Get To Keep His Pension?

palmieri Niel Palmieri was the Director of Facilities Management for Union County until his resignation a week ago.  Last Wednesday he pled guilty to mail fraud and is looking at 46 to 56 months in prison for receiving between $120,000 and $200,000 over the last five years from vendors dealing with the county.

The question your typical panglossian voter would have is how did this guy think he could get away with this.

The question anyone with an unvarnished view of the workings of Union County government (me, for instance) would have is not whether this is a case of one bad apple but the one bad apple who got caught (though I would also be curious as to which vendor ratted – my guess is Birdsall).

But the question most of the people commenting on the story have is whether this criminal will keep his pension.  Perhaps I can help with that one.

Yes, probably most of it.

According to the New Jersey Statute 43:1-3.1:

A person who holds or has held any public office, position, or employment, elective or appointive, under the government of this State or any agency or political subdivision thereof, who is convicted of any crime set forth in subsection b. of this section, or of a substantially similar offense under the laws of another state or the United States which would have been such a crime under the laws of this State, which crime or offense involves or touches such office, position or employment, shall forfeit all of the pension or retirement benefit earned as a member of any State or locally-administered pension fund or retirement system in which he participated at the time of the commission of the offense and which covered the office, position or employment involved in the offense.

What this means is that only the credits earned while “he participated at the time of the commission of the offense” will be forfeited.  Since he pled guilty to stealing over 5 of the 23 years he worked in public service then those other 18 years when he served honorably (or there wasn’t enough evidence to show otherwise) will determine his pension (roughly $30,000 per year depending on which base salary is used) and this is how the law has been interpreted.  Eventually Mr. Palimieri will likely wind up getting far more out of the pension system legally than he ever admitted to getting illegally from county vendors.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tough Love on October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    John, Here’s an interesting twist, Since his traditional DB pension is formulated upon a factor X years of service X final average salary, shouldn’t he not only lose the years of service associated with the criminal activity period, but ALSO have his pension based on his final average salary EXCLUDING any increases during the period of criminal activity ? Perhaps a Taxpayer-advocate should argue that point as the process unfolds.

    Another question ……… since the stolen $$ of such activity are rarely reported on any tax returns, hopefully there are State and Federal tax evasion changes involved as well.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Pat on October 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Maybe not. If the state bangs him for official misconduct, he should lose it all:
    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/05/nj_panel_rules_public_employee.html

    Official misconduct is an innocuous sounding charge where a public servant (including volunteers like firefighters) can get 10 years (five mandatory) if they take a $200 bribe. Under $200 can score them 5 years with two mandatory.

    Im curious that you dont hear about this charge more often, or that it is applied to the big wigs.

    Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on October 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Disgusting just like the rest of them. He should go to prison and lose everything. Is the county paying his legal fees? Does his spouse and dependents still get to keep their Cadillac health plan? I hope he rots in hell

      Reply

      • In response to you and Pat I suspect the swiftness of his guilty plea means he got something for it – probably a pension based on 18 years of service and free lifetime health benefits.

        Reply

  3. Posted by Anonymous on October 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Not necessarily so John. The statute was recently interpreted to mean that all or part of the accrued pension time may be forfeited, depending on the facts of the case. See State v. Michael Steele.

    http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-published/2011/a3295-09-opn.html

    Reply

    • If that’s so then the key word is ‘may’. This likely has been played out to get it all over with as quickly as possible. We’ve gone from a resignation to a guilty play in four days. By next week we’ll be at the “hasn’t he suffered enough” stage if anyone dares bring it up.

      It would be interesting if the deal included lifetime health benefits since he’s got a way to go to Medicare. I”m pretty sure it would have included the bulk of his pension.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Javagold on October 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Stop paying taxes and feeding the corruption and he and his cronies will get NONE !!!

    It is up to you , you control the money……..STOP HANDING IT TO THEM

    Reply

  5. Posted by Muiel Sheridan on October 6, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Corruption through and through!-not just one bad apple but the entire barrel! Any who would interpret and apply the law to permit these criminals to keep ANY of their benefits are likely just protecting their own interests while protecting the thieves who have already been discovered.

    Reply

    • ‘shall forfeit all of the pension in which he participated at the time of the commission of the offense’ Seems clear ‘all’ and the offense was during the pension period.

      Should we only put to death a murderer for only a period of time the murder was done?
      Just kill 1 day of the life?

      Reply

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