Attorney general seeks to revoke or reduce Sanford’s pension

Attorney General George Jepsen has filed a complaint in Hartford Superior Court seeking to revoke or reduce the pension of Bruce L. Sanford, a former highway superintendent who was convicted of a larceny charge last month.

Mr. Sanford, of Redding, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree larceny and was sentenced on Jan. 17. He was a Redding town employee from July 1990 to July 2011 and served as the town’s highway department superintendent for some 11 years.

While employed by the town, the release from the attorney general’s office says, Mr. Sanford embezzled public funds for repairs and parts for his antique truck and a lawn mower. Additionally, he sold multiple vehicles owned by the municipality and kept the proceeds. He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence, to be suspended after three months, in the state’s correctional system, to be followed by three years’ probation.

“Theft from a municipality or the state is a serious violation of the public trust,” said Mr. Jepsen in his release on Monday. “Taxpayers should not be responsible for the pension of someone who is found or pleads guilty to stealing public funds.

“Under state law, my office has the authority to seek to revoke or reduce a public pension when a state or municipal official is convicted of a crime related to their position and, as such, we are exercising that authority in filing this action.”

Under state statute enacted by the General Assembly in 2008, the attorney general is authorized to initiate a civil action seeking reduction or revocation of the pension of any state or municipal official who, in state or federal court, is convicted of or pleads guilty to a crime related to the person’s state or municipal office on or after Oct. 1, 2008.

Any state or municipal official convicted on corruption-related charges — defined specifically in the law as embezzling public funds, committing felony theft from the state, bribery in connection with one’s service as a state or municipal employee, or committing a felony with intent to defraud in order to obtain a profit, gain or advantage for himself or someone else — could face court action to reduce or revoke the official’s pension.

Jaclyn Falkowski, executive assistant for press and communications for the attorney general’s office, said on Tuesday that this is the fifth case brought by the attorney general since the 2008 law was passed. Two have been resolved through settlement, resulting in the revocation of the pension. Two others are still pending in court.

The attorney general’s pension revocation action was initiated by his office based on the authority contained in the 2008 law.

Ms. Falkowski said it is now “a matter of the court.”

The court may revoke or reduce pensions and may also take into account whether there would be an adverse effect, or hardship, on  spouses or dependents through no fault of their own, she said. In such a case, a judge could award all or a reduced amount of the pension to the spouse or dependents.

First Selectman Natalie Ketcham said because Mr. Sanford’s retirement plan is part of the Municipal Employees Retirement System, any action regarding it is out of the hands of the town. The law passed in 2008 governs this, she said.

The employees’ contribution to this plan is set by the General Assembly, as is the town’s contribution to the plan, Ms. Ketcham said.

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