Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is in prison now, but he’s lost more than his freedom with his guilty plea to bribery last month.
The city’s pension board has voted to seize William’s $118,439 in payments into his own pension account.
If Williams hadn’t run afoul of the law, he’d be entitled to a pension of at least $121,991 a year when he retires. He’ll forfeit that when he’s sentenced for the bribery charge he pleaded guilty to last month, but the pension board went further to secure repayment of legal fees taxpayers fronted when Williams was first under investigation.
The city paid the law firm of Morgan Lewis $71,164 to represent Williams early in the investigation. It’s standard practice for the city to provide representation for officials who need it in matters that arise from performance of their duties.
But the city law department reserves the right to recoup those payments if it turns out the investigation “concerns conduct outside the scope of city employment.”
And, as City Controller Alan Butkovitz noted in an interview, “Committing crimes is not part of the district attorney’s job or any public official’s job.”
So the pension board acted to seize Williams’ contributions to cover the legal fees as well as $64,878 in restitution he agreed to when he pled guilty.
Williams was also assessed a $62,000 civil penalty by the Board of Ethics. He agreed to a sechdule of payments over the next five years to meet that obligation.
Butkovitz, a member of the pension board, said he voted for the seizure in part because there is some urgency to the city acting to get what it’s owed.
“Part of the nature of what [Williams] did is that he lived way beyond his means, and he probably owes money to all sorts of people,” Butkovitz said. “And it’s important for the city to be fleet-footed about posting their claim.”