The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

November 30, 2012

Ex-lawmakers stay on state payroll, keep benefits

HARRISBURG — A state legislator charged with drunken driving and assaulting his wife will remain on the House payroll and retain his state health and pension benefits.

Friday was the final day of the current Legislature. On Monday, Rep. Joe Brennan of Lehigh County, who abandoned a re-election bid in August after being charged, will be one of two departing lawmakers who will start new jobs with the House Democratic caucus.

Brennan, who served as an aide and researcher for his predecessor for 14 years before he was elected in 2006, will work as a research analyst.

Rep. Ken Smith, of Lackawanna County, who was defeated in the April primary, will work in the caucus’ Office of Member Services “on a short-term basis in helping the unusually large group of incoming new lawmakers,” said caucus spokesman Bill Patton.

They both will take a $10,000 cut from their $82,000 legislative salary but keep their relatively generous benefits as long as they remain on the payroll, Patton said.

“Both of them will be considered regular caucus employees, assigned to work in Harrisburg, and both are subject to the same expectations as other caucus employees,” he said.

Brennan was charged in August, after police say he punched and choked his wife, then drove away intoxicated. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing in October.

Last year, Brennan was arrested for drunken driving in Bethlehem after his blood-alcohol level was found to be nearly four times the legal limit. He was accepted into a program for nonviolent, first-time offenders.

“Everyone’s familiar with his situation, but he has valuable experience and we’ll put him to work for the caucus,” Patton said.

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