DOWNTOWN — A former teacher at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual molestation involving nine female students in 2008 is still eligible for his pension, according to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS.
Thomas Beltran, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of sexual molestation, has a pre-tax pension allowance of $5,673 each month, said Ricardo Duran, spokesman for CalSTRS.
The amount is based off his compensation for the 2007-08 fiscal year of $88,715. He had over 31 years of service credit with the district.
Even if an employee is convicted of a felony, as Beltran was, the state retirement system cannot deprive him of his pension, Duran said.
“The law in effect right now is basically that a pension is akin to a property right,” Duran said.
CalSTRS, prosecutors nor the courts can touch those funds except to fulfill the members’ responsibility to pay spousal or child support.
The only other exception is if the pension is padded through fraudulent means, like inflating the last year’s salary specifically to bolster the final calculated pension.
The matter came to light after district parent Dr. Lisette Gold learned that former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who’s been accused of lewd acts against children, will still receive his pension if he is found guilty.
The Daily Press contacted CalSTRS, which released the monthly compensation.
“It’s shocking that we had it first before the whole Berndt thing came up. You think it never happens, and I remember living through that horror,” Gold said.
According to Duran, 18 percent of the pension costs come directly from the employee, on average.
Another 18 percent is paid in by the employer, 9 percent comes from the state and approximately 55 percent is comprised of return on investment.
Under current law, CalSTRS is required to pay out pensions to felons, but a move proposed in October 2011 by Gov. Jerry Brown could change that.
The 12-point proposal aims to lower state pension costs from a number of fronts, one of which would require public officials who commit crimes in the course of their duties to forfeit their pensions and related benefits.
Even if such a proposal were to get approved, Duran said, it would likely only apply to new employees, similar to many of the other proposed reforms.
“Case law has shown that it’s hard to take away from existing employees,” Duran said.