ALEXANDRIA, Va. — If the jury in former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s federal corruption trial finds him guilty, he’ll probably lose his cushy retirement benefits thanks to a law that he helped enacted.
In March 2011, McDonnell, who championed himself as a reformer of the state’s underfunded pension system, signed a law denying retirement benefits to public employees convicted of on-the-job felonies.
A conviction on almost any one of the 14 criminal counts he and his wife are facing for their gift-filled relationship with wealthy businessman Jonnie Williams will wipe out potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded pension benefits over the course of his lifetime — up to about $60,000 a year, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch first suggested. That doesn’t even include lifelong health insurance and other benefits.
The law introduced by Republican Delegate Chris Jones, one of the governor’s allies in the General Assembly, says “no person shall be entitled to any benefits of this title as provided in this section if he is convicted of a felony and the person’s employer determines that the felony arise from misconduct occurring on or after July 1, 2011, in any position in which the person was a member covered for retirement purposes under any retirement system administered by the (Virginia Retirement System) board.”
There could be some gray area in the timeline, as the interactions the prosecution has described in the case so far have taken place both before and after July 1, 2011. And since McDonnell hadn’t reached age 65 or 30 years of service before ending his public service, he would likely be eligible for reduced benefits instead of full benefits, according to Virginia Retirement System rules.