Governor Peter Shumlin says he’ll urge lawmakers to pass a bill that cracks down on cases of fraud involving state workers, municipal employees and teachers.
The proposed law stems from a case of a Vermont State Police trooper who is charged with padding his overtime hours by tens of thousands of dollars. The trooper, Sgt. Jim Deeghan, resigned from the force and the case is now headed to court.
This legislation adds potential penalties to state and local government employees who are convicted of pension fraud, bribery or other cases of financial fraud.
It allows a judge to review each case and determine if it is appropriate to take away part or all of the employee’s state pension fund.
Governor Peter Shumlin says the vast number of state workers, municipal employees and teachers are hardworking, honest people and that this bill is designed to deal with the very few cases that emerge from year to year:
"I think this sends a really clear message to state employees who have a tremendous responsibility because they’re dealing with the public trust and taxpayer dollars money that is not theirs, to ensure that their actions are always honest and always forthright."
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn says his agency has also implemented a series of new safeguards to make certain that this type of overtime fraud doesn’t happen again.
"We do need to realize that we can’t change the past we can only look to the future and I believe that this legislation is going to be meaningful to that extent and they’ll be some meaningful changes," said Flynn. "Having said that, without the legislation we did some things to look at our own internal reviews and our own internal systems to look at how we can get better."
House Speaker Shap Smith promised that the proposal will receive a timely hearing at the Statehouse.
"We know that most state employees and municipal employees and teachers are hard working and do not breach the public trust but when that happens there is a need for recourse and under our current laws we don’t have that recourse available to us and that’s something that we need to address," said Smith. "We will take us this bill quickly when we return and I look forward to passage of the bill by the end of the session."
Smith says both the House and Senate Judiciary committees will begin to take testimony on the legislation later this month.