There have been a couple new developments since an Action 16 Investigative story about former State Senator Bob Mellow.
His scheduled arraignment Friday on corruption charges has been postponed.
A report on Newswatch 16’s Wednesday about Mellow possibly keeping his pension caught the attention of Harrisburg.
Bob Mellow’s plea deal that was supposed to take place in court Friday morning has been continued due to an order by federal Judge Joel Slomsky.
It was not requested by federal prosecutors or Mellow’s defense lawyers.
Meantime, the head of the state Public Employee Retirement Commission sent Newswatch 16 an email Thursday morning which showed sections of state laws that actually could justify stripping Mellow of his pension benefits.
Mellow remains scheduled to finalize his plea deal, the only question is when.
Political activist Eric Epstein of rockthecapital.org is concerned Mellow’s plea deal as it stands may allow him to continue collecting his state pension.
“He’s getting $11,500 a month,” said Epstein. “He’s getting free health care. It’s almost as if he’s being rewarded for breaking the law.”
Court papers show Mellow plans to plead guilty to the federal crimes of filing a false tax return and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. These two crimes are not directly listed among the 20 spelled out in Act 140, the state law that determines pension eligibility for convicted felons.
James McAneny, the executive director of the state Public Employee Retirement Commission, sent Newswatch 16 an e-mail saying that in addition to the specific crimes listed in Act 140, convicted felons could lose their pensions based on, “Crimes related to public office or public employment. …when his public employment places him in a position to commit the crime.”
McAneny added Act 140 can apply to the state’s tax reform code, writing, “Don`t be so sure that the tax evasion charge is irrelevant.”
Meantime, the former state senator has now been penalized by the state ethics commission. The commission ordered Mellow to pay the state $21,000 that he spent leasing district office space in Peckville in a building he partially owned.
That same practice led to this mid-summer protest in 2009, when activist Gene Stilp blew up a giant inflatable pig outside Mellow’s Peckville office.
Stilp is now the Democratic nominee to run for the U.S. Congress in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District.
As for Bob Mellow`s plea deal, the date still has not been set. If a federal judge accepts it, we could know how much prison time he will serve.
Whether Mellow can keep his pension will be determined in Harrisburg, sometime after his plea deal is executed in federal court.