March 15, 2008

Incentive Against Corruption

Justin Katz

The latest instance of corruption and abuse of position in RI government gave me an idea for legislation:

The Rhode Island State Police have charged a Department of Administration employee with felony embezzlement for allegedly stealing cash from the agency.

The police said an investigation revealed that longtime state employee Patricia Pirolli, 59, of 15 Hill St., North Providence, on several occasions over the past year took unspecified amounts of money that had been collected as registration fees and fines by the department’s Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board.

In her role as chief implementation aide in the Division of Capital Projects and Property Management, Pirolli was responsible for processing the checks, cash and accompanying vouchers after they were collected by clerks.

The state police said once the money and paperwork were turned over to Pirolli she would remove the cash and alter the vouchers to reflect only check payments received for deposit. ...

She has served in her position at the DOA for about four years.

Neal could not provide further details about her prior employment with the state, saying a computer system needed to access that information was unavailable.

So how about a law that would strip government officials and public employees of all claims to pensions if they're convicted of corruption (which would have to be defined in the law)? It might sound draconian for "slipping up" after many years of honest service, but it takes consequences to counterbalance temptation.

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That's good but what should also happen is a five year minimum sentence for all government corruption. No parole, suspended sentence, work release, home confinement, Minimum security, furloughs or anything else.

Posted by: Mike at March 15, 2008 10:44 AM

Justin - I agree. You'll recall a few months ago when John Harwood made the argument on Frank Corrente's behalf that "twenty-six out of twenty-nine [years] is a good record." (See It is not a good enough record to warrant receipt of a lifelong pension. No one is arguing to require a repayment of the compensation earned during the non-corrupt twenty-six years (though that is tempting, too), but we should not have to support for the rest of their lives former public employees who violated not only the law but the public trust.

Posted by: Jon at March 15, 2008 11:07 AM

Just a gut feeling here but given that this is a 24 year employee who appears to have been caught stealing a relatively small sum of money this case seems to be less likely related to "greed" and more likely related to some sort of yet to be disclosed personal issue (gambling debt, drugs). If those assumptions are true, I don't think that you can draw parallels to a real dirty bird like Corrente. I do agree that this behavior needs to be dealt with in a way that discourages others from this kind of conduct but stripping of ones pension all together in a case such as this would be indeed draconian.

Posted by: jd at March 15, 2008 11:54 AM


The problem is that the disproportionate promise of a pension, for public employees, is quite a tremendous parachute to ease the risk of illegal and immoral behavior.

By contrast, facing such a significant consequence would give public employees reason to be very aware of their behavior, whether it involves direct theft, the use of public resources for private gain, or the shirking of responsibility at the local pub during several hours of the average workday.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 15, 2008 12:03 PM

The contractor's board is one of the few well-run state agencies-they give the consumer a fair shot at justice short of going to court-it's a shame this happened,but it appears to be a situation limited to one individual and not indicative of the agency in general-and i have no relatives employed by the state of rhode isalnd-i and a relative had good experiences with the board so taht is why i am making a positive comment

Posted by: joseph bernstein at March 15, 2008 3:13 PM

We already have it: the Public Employee Pension Revocation and Reduction Act (RIGL §36-10.1).

Posted by: Pragmatist at March 16, 2008 2:26 PM