Louis Elmy may recoup the $66,315 he paid toward his Luzerne County pension, but a full taxpayer-subsidized pension is unlikely due to the latest charges against him, officials say.
The state’s pension forfeiture act precludes public employees from receiving a pension if they are convicted of certain crimes related to their employment.
Elmy, a nearly 20-year Luzerne County prison system worker, was charged with extortion and possession of a firearm in furtherance of selling crack cocaine, according to a criminal information filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Prosecutors said Elmy, while acting in his official role as a prison work-release counselor, extorted money and other items of value from work release inmates in exchange for giving them special privileges and unauthorized furloughs.
Extortion is among the crimes listed in the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act.
The 52-year-old Wilkes-Barre resident and former Wilkes-Barre Area School Board member originally was charged in February with distribution and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and possessing a firearm while being a habitual drug user.
County officials could not assess the potential impact on Elmy’s pension in February because the FBI had not publicly released information detailing the actions that led to the charges and whether they were connected to his county employment.
County pension coordinator Rick Hummer said Monday his office won’t process Elmy’s pension request until the matter is adjudicated and reviewed by the county Retirement Board’s legal counsel.
Elmy has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, and a plea hearing is scheduled for July 21 before U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik in Scranton.
The county Retirement Board also must publicly approve all pensions and refunds of employee contributions, Hummer said.
The board is set to meet on July 13, before Elmy’s plea hearing. The next board meeting is not until Oct. 12, Hummer said.
County officials have refused to pay pensions or interest earnings on employee pension contributions several times in recent years due to criminal charges against former employees.
Elmy’s resignation also is under review, officials said.
The county administration placed Elmy on administrative leave without pay at the time the charges were filed, and Elmy resigned from the $58,413-a-year county position in lieu of termination on March 31.
Now that details about the alleged employment-related crime against him have been released, the administration is exploring changing his departure as termination with cause, officials said.
Termination with cause could prevent Elmy from receiving compensation for unused vacation and/or sick days, officials said.
County Councilwoman Kathy Dobash on Monday released her response to an email from county Manager C. David Pedri about the charges against Elmy.
Pedri told the council he and other county officials have worked closely with federal authorities throughout the investigation. Prison staffers are reviewing practices and procedures and will make adjustments where needed, he said.
The matter will be further discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting, Pedri said.
“It is obvious severe and drastic changes with strong observation needs to take place,” Dobash wrote in reply. “Criminal employee activity is disgusting. This really makes me sick.”