WV Bill Would Criminalize Failure to Contribute to Pensions

Larceny of contributions could mean up to 10 years in prison for violators.

A new bill proposed in the West Virginia state legislature would make it a criminal offense for public employers of retirement systems administered by the Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) to fail to make their required contributions.

The bill would authorize the state auditor, county commission, and sheriff to withhold any money due the participating public employer by the state or county, and to remit the monies to the applicable retirement system.

The primary sponsor of the bill is Delegate Ron Walters (R), who is the chair of the West Virginia House of Delegates Pensions and Retirement Committee. Delegates Bill Hamilton (R), and Cindy Frich (R) are cosponsors.

According to the proposed legislation, if any participating public employer fails to make a payment due to any retirement system administered by the CPRB for 60 days after the payment is due, the participating public employer will be considered delinquent. Once this happens, the state auditor, county commission, and/or sheriff would be authorized and directed to withhold any money due to the employer by the state or county until the delinquency is satisfied. The withheld money would be paid by the authorities to the applicable retirement system on behalf of the participating public employer.

Additionally, the bill states that any employer who is party to an agreement to provide benefits or wage supplements, and who willfully fails or refuses to pay the benefits within 30 days after the payments are required will be guilty of a misdemeanor, and fined between $100 and $500. When such an employer is a corporation, the president, secretary, treasurer or officer exercising responsibility for such nonpayment will be considered guilty of the offense.

The bill could also mean some serious prison time for violators, who would essentially be treated as thieves stealing pension contributions. Any public official who is responsible for ensuring that a public entity comply with the laws and provisions of a CPRB public pension plan, and who knowingly and willfully fails to make contributions to the retirement plan, will be guilty of the larceny of the contributions owed. If the amount of owed contributions is $1,000 or more, the official will be guilty of a felony, and could be imprisoned for between one and 10 years, and fined up to $2,500. If the amount is less than $1,000, the offense will be considered a misdemeanor and the punishment will be up to one year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,500.

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