Former state Sen. Gene Stipe is entitled to his full pension as a state legislator because the federal crimes to which he pleaded guilty were not a violation of his oath of office, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled today. In its ruling, the high court upheld an Oklahoma County judge's decision that Stipe's state pension should not be reduced by his guilty pleas. With 54 years of legislative service as a House and Senate member, Stipe is eligible for a $7,042 monthly pension. A hearing examiner had ruled in 2004 that Stipe was entitled only to $1,572 a month, which represented his pension earnings before a 1981 state law was enacted to require forfeiture of retirement benefits of state officials who enter guilty pleas to certain crimes. Stipe appealed to the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement Board which sided with the hearing examiner. Stipe then went to District Court where District Judge Barbara Swinton reversed the decision of the board of the state retirement system. On March 24, 2003, Stipe signed a plea agreement in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, pleading guilty to three counts: one count was conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, a misdemeanor; one count of Conspiracy to Obstruct a Federal Election Commission investigation, a felony, and one count of perjury, a felony. The court said the oath of office requires an officeholder to swear to support, obey and defend the constitutions of the United States and the state of Oklahoma. The officeholder swears he will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for performance or nonperformance of any act and swears to faithfully discharge his duties to the best of this abilty. "It is immediately apparent that the crimes to which Stipe pled guilty in district court for the District of Columbia do not facially constitute a violation of Stipe's oath of office," the Supreme Court said. "The (federal) plea agreement even contains a provision that the parties agree that the defendant's conduct, as set forth in the Factual Basis for Plea and Information, did not relate to or arise from his duties as a public official or state senator from Oklahoma." The retirement system's board determined that the loyalty oath was one of Stipe's oaths of office within the meaning of the law on forfeiting a pension, and the oath was cumulative with the constitutional oath, the court said. The retirement system's board erred in finding Stipe had two applicable oaths of office: that the loyalty oath was cumulative with the constitutional oath and would be considered in determining if Stipe violated his oaths of office, the court said. In 1993 the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional oath was Oklahoma's sole official oath for a public officer, the opinion said.