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Luzerne County Retirement Board v. Seacrist

January 27, 2010

LUZERNE COUNTY RETIREMENT BOARD
v.
DOLORES SEACRIST, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Kelley

Submitted: September 25, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE JAMES R. KELLEY, Senior Judge, HONORABLE KEITH B. QUIGLEY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Dolores Seacrist appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (trial court), which granted Luzerne County Retirement Board's (Board) motion for summary judgment, upon determining that Seacrist was disqualified from receiving pension benefits. We affirm.

The facts of this case are not in dispute. Seacrist was a Luzerne County employee from October 27, 1986 until December 31, 2005 when she resigned. On October 28, 2005, Seacrist was charged with various crimes stemming from certain actions she engaged in on October 13, 2004, while an employee of Luzerne County. Seacrest was ultimately convicted on August 17, 2006.

Following her resignation, Seacrist filed an application with the Board for the payment of her vested pension benefits. On September 25, 2007, the Board voted to approve Seacrist's pension benefits and issued a check to her representing payment of the first monthly pension benefits due. On November 13, 2007, the Board voted to rescind its approval and filed an action seeking declaratory judgment with the trial court seeking to determine whether the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act*fn1 (Pension Act) prohibits Seacrist from receiving retirement benefits based upon her August 17, 2006 conviction for attempt or conspiracy to commit "crimes related to public office or employment." Seacrist was found guilty of the following criminal offenses:

1. Securing Execution of Documents by Deceptions (18 Pa. C.S. §4114);

2. Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Securing Execution of Documents by Deception (18 Pa. C.S. §903; 18 Pa. C.S. §4114);

3. Criminal Attempt to Commit Tampering with Public Records or Information (18 Pa. C.S. §901; 18 Pa. C.S. §4911(a)(1), (2), (3));

4. Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function (18 Pa. C.S. §903; 18 Pa. C.S. §5101); and

5. Criminal Attempt to Commit Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function (18 Pa. C.S. §903; 18 Pa. C.S. §5101).

Seacrist was not convicted of Tampering with Public Records or Information (18 Pa. C.S. §4911(a)(1), (2), (3)) or Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function (18 Pa. C.S. §5101).

Before the trial court, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court determined that Seacrist was disqualified from receiving a pension under the Pension Act because she was convicted of crimes related to public employment including criminal offenses relating to tampering with public records or information and obstructing administration of law or other governmental function. The trial court rejected Seacrist's argument that she is entitled to benefits because she was not found guilty of committing a tampering or obstruction crime, but merely the criminal attempt and conspiracy to commit those crimes.*fn2 By Order dated January 28, 2009, the trial court granted the Board's motion, but denied Seacrist's. This appeal now follows.*fn3

Seacrist contends that the trial court erred in expanding the scope of the applicability of Section 3(a) of the Pension Act, 43 P.S. ยง1313(a), to conclude that she was disqualified from receiving her pension benefits because she was not found guilty of committing the offenses enumerated in the Pension Act, ...


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