Former Rep. Joe Armstrong’s state pension would provide him with $28,744 annually under the application he has filed, but state officials have not decided whether he is entitled to receive the benefits after a felony conviction for filing a false federal tax return.
Shelli King, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, said Armstrong’s application was received on Tuesday and officials are conferring with attorneys to decide whether it will be approved.
King said that Armstrong’s application opts for receiving maximum monthly benefits with no survivor benefits upon his death. If approved, she said in an email, “Rep. Armstrong will receive $2,395.34 per month based on 27 years, 10 months of service in the General Assembly” – or $28,744.08 per year.
Those making the decision will include state Treasurer David Lillard, who oversees the pension system, TCRS Executive Director Jill Bachus and others, she said, and “not just a single person.” She estimated that the process of making a consensus decision – one that might generate political controversy — could take four to six weeks.
Under state law, a legislator forfeits his or her pension benefits when “convicted in any state or federal court of a felony arising out of that person’s official capacity, constituting malfeasance in office.”
That raises the question of whether Armstrong’s federal court conviction arises out of his “official capacity” as a state legislator. The filing of his tax return, of course, was not an official duty as a legislator.
But the conviction was based on a failure to pay federal income taxes on more than $300,000 profit Armstrong made by buying, through a tobacco wholesaler, Tennessee cigarette tax stamps at the rate prior to a 2007 increase in the state cigarette taxes – which he supported as a legislator – then selling them after the increase was approved. Continue reading