Former Missouri lawmaker Ray Salva, a convicted felon, has lost a legal battle with the state of Missouri over whether he qualifies for a state pension.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District upheld a trial court’s decision that Salva was ineligible to collect a state pension. It also agreed with the trial court that Salva should repay nearly $30,000 he received from the state’s pension system between January 2011 and June 2013.
Salva, a Democrat, pleaded guilty in 2013 to a federal charge of illegally receiving Social Security disability payments while working as a state legislator. Shortly thereafter MOSERS, the pension system for most state workers, cut off Salva’s pension and asked the courts to order Salva to repay the money he had already received.
MOSERS said Missouri’s constitution bars pension payments to public officials convicted of felonies.
Salva said he was entitled to the pension because his federal guilty plea came more than two years after he left the legislature. The constitutional prohibition on pension payments to felons applies only to convictions that take place while a public official is actually in office, he argued.
The Court of Appeals rejected Salva’s argument.
“Salva’s construction is unreasonable,” the court said. “Under Salva’s interpretation, a public official could commit a felony nearly every day in office and still receive retirement benefits from the state as long as the official resigns or is no longer in office before the date of conviction.”
The court called that outcome “absurd.”
Salva served in the Missouri House from 2003 until 2010. He repaid $59,000 in federal disability benefits he improperly received while a member of the legislature, but has disputed the state pension benefit in court.