Runestad anti-corruption law applies to state employee accused of stealing taxpayer dollars

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad said Friday that his 2017 anti-corruption bill will apply in the case of the state of Michigan employee accused of stealing nearly $1.5 million during his time at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

“Under our bipartisan legislation passed into law, public officials who break the law and violate the public’s trust will lose their taxpayer-funded pensions,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Hardworking Michiganders should not be paying anything to crooked felons, and this case is exactly why we passed this law.”

The attorney general announced this week that Joseph Pettit, a former employee at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, is accused of embezzling taxpayer funds over the course of several years. The total amount stolen is estimated to be near $1.5 million, according to a Michigan State Police affidavit.

Runestad sponsored Public Act 43 of 2017, which requires the forfeiture of taxpayer-funded pensions and benefits for state employees convicted of a felony that violates the public trust.

“Until recently, corrupt state employees could be serving jail time while still receiving taxpayer-funded checks,” Runestad said. “That’s simply not right, and thankfully we were able to do something about it.

“PA 43 will continue to crack down on officials who break our laws and expect to keep taking taxpayer money. It’s been one very positive step toward fighting corruption, cleaning up government and holding criminals accountable.”

Pettit is expected to be arraigned Friday in Lansing. He is charged with three counts of embezzlement of more than $100,000, four forgery-related crimes and the use of a computer to commit a crime.

If convicted, Pettit could lose his government-financed retirement benefits under the 2017 law.