Savannah > Council Asks to Drop Convicted Chief’s Pension

| February 21, 2015

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SAVANNAH — As was reported last month, despite the fact former Savannah Police Chief Willie Lovett was convicted of several felonies, that doesn’t mean he loses his $130,000/year pension.

Or does it?

The Savannah City Council is seeking assistance from the Georgia Attorney General, Sam Olens, after being told by staff that they must continue to pay Lovett’s pension despite his conviction.

Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson directed City Attorney Brooks Stillwell to seek confirmation from Olens to see if they could eliminate, or at least reduce, Lovett’s pension.  If not, Stillwell was directed to consider seeking civil damages from Lovett as an alternative.

Council Members were frustrated with Stillwell’s assertion that the city had no recourse against Lovett since he had not stolen funds directly from the city.  Alderman Tony Thomas even stormed out of the session in frustration.  Thomas asserted that the city had grounds to take action against Lovett due to the fact he cost the city money by diverting resources to his own benefit.

The situation stems from Lovett’s conviction in January of commercial gambling charges and conspiring to obstruct law enforcement.  He was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison and was fined $50,000.

Stillwell directed the council that Georgia law does not allow for pensions to be reduced or forfeited if an employee is convicted of one of a list of designated “employment related crimes,” but only if the employee was hired after 1985.  Lovett had been with the department before that date.

Further, Stillwell notes that even if Lovett has been fired (he resigned before the investigation led to his indictment), the right to his pension beginning at retirement age is vested after five years of employment, meaning it’s his regardless of how he lost his position.

Mayor Jackson believes the council is acting appropriately in getting a final conclusion on the matter, if for not other reason than for clarification.

 

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