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.
Read The Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling