Former Councilman Jackson seeks Providence pension worth $1K a month

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson has applied for two city pensions worth about $1,000 per month, but the Elorza administration isn’t ruling out going after his retirement benefits if he’s convicted on an embezzlement charge.

Jackson, a Democrat who represented Ward 3 for more than 22 years, became the first politician in city history to be recalled from office in May. His constituents launched the recall campaign after he was charged with embezzling from a youth sports team and misusing campaign funds in 2016. He has pleaded not guilty.

As a former councilman, Jackson is eligible for both a service pension worth $536 per month and an elected official’s pension worth $477 per month, according to Victor Morente, a spokesperson for the city. Jackson elected to take a smaller pension that includes a survivor benefit, which allows the payments to continue to be made to a designated beneficiary after his death.

Jackson’s application will go before the Providence Retirement Board Wednesday morning.

An existing ordinance allows the board to reduce or eliminate the pension of any former employee accused of wrongdoing related to his city work, even if they are not convicted of a crime. Morente said it is too soon to say whether the city will attempt to revoke or reduce Jackson’s pension. The board does have the ability to grant a pension and revisit its decision down the line.

City records show Jackson’s service pension is based off 22 years and four months of service. (The elected official benefit is capped at 20 years.) All told, he contributed $40,022 to the pension system and accrued $23,630 in interest. Jackson’s monthly pension benefits would be larger, but he had an outstanding pension loan balance of $29,865 as of June 9. (City employees are eligible to take out loans against their contributions to the pension fund.)

Jackson was arrested by State Police in May 2016 and indicted by a statewide grand jury two months later. Prosecutors allege he embezzled $127,153 from the Providence Cobras youth track-and-field team, an organization that received more than $67,000 in taxpayer-funded city donations between 2005 and 2015. He is also accused of using $12,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.

A special election to replace Jackson on the City Council is scheduled for Aug. 16. Democratic primary winner Nirva LaFortune is considered a heavy favorite against Republican David Lallier Jr. and independent Christopher Reynolds.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan