Scranton City Councilman John Loscombe volunteered to serve on the council to finish the remainder of a four year term for a councilman who was elected tax collector. As a retired Scranton firefighter Loscombe received a pension of about $22,000 per year. As a councilman he receives a stipend of $12,500.
Like many pension systems, Scranton has ordinances that provide that a retired firefighter's pension "shall be suspended during his term of service" to the city, and resumed on request of the pensioner "upon termination of such compensated service." Shortly after taking office in February of this year, his pension payments were stopped.
Last week Loscombe filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city seeking reinstatement of his pension and back payments. He is alleging violation of due process and retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights.
Fundamentally, Loscombe is arguing that as a citizen he has a constitutional right to hold political office and serve in political positions without being penalized financially. He further argues that the stopping of his pension was intended to place financial pressure on him to resign, and was done without first granting him the opportunity for a hearing.
Public opinion on his case seems split, with sound arguments on both sides. Pro Loscombe, and anti Loscombe. Arguably, a person may have a constitutional right to serve in a political office, but not a right to receive pension payments. However, a governmental action that unnecessarily burdens the exercise of a constitutional right may be invalid.
This will be an interesting case to follow.