Employment Lawyer Ralph Teti Quoted on Unemployment Compensation
January 28, 2011
Guilty cop getting unemployment (Bucks County Courier Times)
By: Ben Finley
Michael Marren was found guilty of aggravated indecent assault. He's collecting unemployment checks while out on bond and awaiting sentencing. This, an official says, is wrong.
Bensalem's public safety director said he is angry that a former police sergeant convicted of sex offenses in December still is receiving unemployment compensation.
"I think it's morally reprehensible and offensive," Fred Harran said. "Here is an individual who was given a fair trial, found guilty and the unemployment should stop."
Harran said his department's labor attorney has been fighting to end Michael Marren's unemployment compensation since weeks after Marren was let go in March. Harran said the department's lawyers so far have failed to get a post-conviction meeting to address the issue with Marren, his attorney and an unemployment compensation official.
Harran said a meeting was scheduled for today with a referee with Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. But Harran said that meeting was rescheduled for late February at the request of Marren's attorney.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Marren's Philadelphia-based attorney, Jack McMahon, for comment Thursday. David Smith, a spokesman for Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry, which handles unemployment compensation, said his office cannot comment on specific cases.
Marren, who is free on $20,000 bond, declined to comment to the newspaper.
A source close to the matter confirmed that the hearing was rescheduled. Marren continues to receive unemployment compensation, although it is coming through the federal unemployment extension program, the source said.
Just how much compensation Marren is receiving couldn't be verified Thursday. Harran said Marren earned a base salary of $83,000 before he left the force.
Neil A. Morris, the police department's labor lawyer, said Bensalem appealed Marren's unemployment compensation with the state shortly after he lost his job. Morris said a referee with the board of review sided with Marren because the sexual assault victim did not testify at the unemployment compensation hearing.
Harran, the public safety director, said he did not want to make the victim testify outside a criminal hearing.
Morris said his office appealed the referee's decision to the board of review in Harrisburg. He said the board sent the case back to the referee, who was instructed to make a decision following Marren's trial.
Morris said that the board of review said that if Marren were found guilty, he would no longer receive compensation and would have to pay back what he received to the state.
So far, that hasn't happened.
Following Marren's conviction in December, a meeting with the referee was rescheduled twice, Morris said. A source close to the case confirmed that.
Marren, 42, was the sergeant of Bensalem's special victim's unit. The department let him go a week after county detectives began investigating allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman at Bensalem Emergency Medical Services headquarters.
Marren was charged a few weeks later. And about nine months later, a Bucks County jury convicted him of aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and three related second-degree felony counts. He is awaiting sentencing pending a Megan's Law evaluation.
Harran said his department conducted its own internal review after the allegations came out. He said Marren was let go because of violations of the department's code of conduct, specifically conduct "unbecoming a police officer."
In Pennsylvania, citizens who lose their jobs can apply for unemployment benefits, which come from a state fund that employees and employers pay into. But a former employer can fight against someone receiving the benefits on certain grounds.
, a partner at the Philadelphia law firm Willig, Williams and Davidson
, said people can get fired for something like poor performance and have no problem collecting unemployment compensation. But a person must commit some kind of "willful" or "wanton" act against their employer - such as punching their boss in the nose - to lose their unemployment benefits, Teti said.
Teti's law firm has represented the union side of many labor conflicts in Philadelphia, including cases involving police officers. He said it's one thing if a civilian gets fired for something they did off the job and then applies for unemployment compensation. But it's a different story if a cop gets fired for off-duty behavior and tries to collect unemployment.
"The job of a police officer is more dicey in terms of entitlement," Teti said. "Police officers are sort of always on duty. Their job is to support the law."