Two felons to lose city pensions?

Posted: August 25, 2011

LOOKS LIKE THE BUCK stops here for two former city workers convicted of felonies who have been receiving city pensions for years.

The city pension board today was to consider disqualifying five former municipal workers from the benefit system - including two check-collecting felons who were identified by the Daily News last month.

Those two - former juvenile probation officer Sherman Washington and one-time Municipal Court employee Gladys McDowell - were among eight felons the People's Paper found were receiving benefits. Washington, who pleaded guilty to theft and conspiracy in 2004 had been getting $1,103 per month since 2003. And McDowell, who was found guilty of tampering with public records in 2004, has been getting $816 per month since 2002.

Both appear to have committed crimes that could cost your pension under city law - which disqualifies those guilty of perjury, bribery, corruption, theft, embezzlement or malfeasance in connection with your city job. But neither had been reviewed for disqualification until now, due to a number of procedural cracks in the system, which officials are working to shore up.

Through July, Washington and McDowell had collected $102,590 and $87,336 in pension benefits, respectively, since their retirement from the city.

Francis Bielli, executive director of the pension board, said that historically the board has followed through on the Law Department's disqualification recommendations.

The other three ex-city workers on today's agenda are not actively receiving pensions. They are: former Department of Human Services social worker Laura Sommerer, who pleaded guilty to child endangerment as part of the Danieal Kelly starvation case in 2009, former Police Officer DeShane Riggins, who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in January, and former Water Department worker Michael Gibbs, who was dismissed from his city job in 2007. Details on the reason for Gibbs' dismissal were not available.

According to city records, Gibbs and Sommerer remained part of the pension system, though they were not paying in, while Riggins had withdrawn what was left of his contributions after paying restitution.

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