Pensions, other benefits get more scrutiny
RALEIGH -- This year, state legislators put in place a law that limits the pension benefits of any state or local government employee who is convicted of a felony related to the employee's job.
That law, though, wasn't enough to prevent former New Hanover County ABC administrator Billy Williams from collecting some of the most lucrative government retirement benefits in the state.
Williams is getting about $195,000 in annual retirement benefits despite a felony conviction for obtaining property by false pretenses, according to the Wilmington Star-News.
That makes his pension the seventh-highest in the state among those receiving benefits from the system, the newspaper reported.
The law that limits benefits, allowing beneficiaries involved in a job-related felony to collect only their own contributions and interest, was not in effect at the time of Williams' conviction.
Williams was convicted of approving a $43,000 invoice, allegedly for work at an ABC store, that actually helped pay for a garage at his Wilmington home.
A judge gave him a suspended jail term, 24 months probation and ordered him to a pay a $21,930 fine.
It's tough on a local ABC administrator, isn't it?
Meanwhile, the paper reports that Williams' son, Bradley Williams, is also collecting government retirement benefits.
Believed to be in his late 30s, it is not exactly clear why. Perhaps because of a disability claim?
Published reports also show former First Lady Mary Easley is walking away with higher pension benefits after reaching a settlement with her last employer, N.C. State University.
This latest about the wayward ABC official and Mary Easley comes as state legislators continue looking at another type of benefit, workers compensation.
A legislative study committee recently received some disturbing figures about that system, which provides payments to workers injured on the job.
The figures showed that, for all state workers, the number of workers compensation claims since 2004 has steadily declined. The costs, though, have risen better than 75 percent.
The figures would indicate that rising medical costs, as it relates to workers compensation claims, is costing North Carolina taxpayers.
Other figures showed workers compensation claims paid out to teachers and other school employees have jumped dramatically since 2006, rising five-fold.
Over the last several months, a few anti-tax groups, after efforts to rein in state pensions in other states, have questioned pensions and other benefits provided to public workers in North Carolina.
But making state government jobs less attractive by limiting pensions is hardly the answer to attracting a better state workforce.
Instead, the revelations regarding Williams, along with those state workers compensation figures, suggest that legislators need to continue looking for ways to prevent abuse of the system.
Limiting benefits for those convicted of a crime related to their job is a good start.
Re-working the state pension payment formula, where benefits are based on an employee's four highest-paid years of service, is another step that might prevent the system from being worked to inflate benefits.