- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former leader of Pennsylvania’s Senate who served prison time for corruption is seeking to have his $20,000-a-month pension restored.

The State Employees’ Retirement System board is voting on the appeal by Robert Mellow, but it is unclear when they will decide, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday. The 74-year-old Scranton-area legislator lost the retirement benefit when he pleaded guilty in May 2012.

After his decades of service, Mellow was entitled to $246,000 a year.

Mellow was charged with tapping Senate staff for political fundraising and campaign work in violation of state law. He continued misusing staff even as fellow lawmakers were prosecuted as part of the state attorney general’s “Bonusgate” investigation, in which lawmakers were accused of handing out taxpayer-funded bonuses for campaign work.

At Mellow’s direction, staffers planned and ran picnic and golf fundraisers for his campaign committee, ran a “campaign school” for Democratic candidates, and did other political work while being paid by the Senate - and thus by Pennsylvania taxpayers.

His lawyers argue Mellow’s crime wasn’t comparable to any of the state crimes listed in the pension forfeiture law, because he was convicted in federal court.

Mellow was sentenced to 16 months in prison; he was released in March 2014.

But if the appeal succeeds, Mellow would join an extremely small circle of Pennsylvania public servants to get their monthly payments restored.

Others who lost their pensions include former House Speakers Bill DeWeese and John Perzel, former Sens. Vincent Fumo and Jane Orie, and Orie’s sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

The next board meeting is June 14.

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Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, https://www.post-gazette.com


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