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Former York Suburban superintendent unlikely to lose pension

Written by Ed Mahon/The York Daily Record | Dec 1, 2017 3:42 AM
michele_merkle_York_suburban.jpg

York Suburban Superintendent Michele Merkle addresses the crowd during the senior graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 26, 2016. (Photo: Jeff Lautenberger, York Daily Record)

Certain crimes make someone ineligible for a state pension. Criminal mischief isn't on the list.

(Undated) -- School district superintendents can lose their pensions if they steal from taxpayers, sexually abuse children or lie to police.

But criminal mischief -- which is what former York Suburban Supt. Michele Merkle is accused of -- isn't on the list of offenses that disqualify someone for a tax-payer funded pension. 

Merkle was caught on video in September damaging two vehicles that belonged to the district's former assistant superintendent, according to criminal charges. The York County District Attorney's Office said the vandalism occurred on school property.

Ed Paskey, attorney for former assistant superintendent Patricia Maloney, released a statement Tuesday, saying his client "has been intentionally targeted and victimized through a pattern of vandalism and professional intimidation."

But the charges against Merkle don't fall under Pennsylvania's pension forfeiture law. The law covers certain crimes committed by a public official or public employee related to their work.

Many of the crimes covered by the pension forfeiture law are aimed at protecting taxpayers or children. Some examples of what's covered:

  • theft by deception or extortion, if the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor or greater;
  • forgery;
  • bribery;
  • false reports to law enforcement authorities;
  • retaliation against witness, victim or party;
  • official oppression.

Here's a quick recap of the charges against former York Suburban superintendent Michele Merkle.Wochit

 

Some lawmakers have proposed expanding who would have to give up their pensions.

State Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, has said the current system has too many loopholes.He wants the law to cover all felony convictions related to public office or public work.

But that expansion still wouldn't cover Merkle's case.

Merkle, 54, of the 1900 block of Vicki Drive, Spring Garden Township, was charged with two counts of a second-degree misdemeanor: criminal mischief.

That offense can become a felony in some conditions, including if the person caused more than $5,000 in damage. In Merkle's case, police say she caused about $1,700 in damage to a Volvo and more than $1,900 to a Jeep.

DiSanto's legislation does not propose covering all misdemeanors under pension forfeiture. Why not?

"This is a very serious consequence, and it should be used for the most serious crimes involving public employment," said Chuck Erdman, chief of staff for DiSanto.

A similar proposal from state Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks County, passed in the state House in May.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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