Pozonsky tapped state pension before moving to Alaska

December 11, 2012
Paul Pozonsky of Canonsburg was born October 8, 1955. Graduated in 1973 from Canon-Mac High; 1977 West Virginia University; 1980 Duquesne University School of Law. Common Pleas Judge of Washington County. Legal background is Vitti and Associates; Grenen and Birsic. Elective office is Magisterial District Judge and Judge-Court of Common Pleas. Father of four. Photo taken October 17, 2007.

Former Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky collected a lump-sum payment of $200,851 and his first $7,956 monthly annuity payment in retirement benefits from the state a little more than a month after his sudden retirement last summer.

Pozonsky announced his retirement June 29, shortly after being stripped of his criminal cases by President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca amid reports he was being investigated by the state attorney general’s office. To date, no one at the attorney general’s office will either confirm or deny such an investigation.

Immediately following Pozonsky’s retirement notice, the Observer-Reporter sought information through the right-to-know law regarding his state pension from the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS). Pamela J. Hile, deputy open-records officer for SERS, said no information could be released until Pozonsky formally tapped into his pension plan.

Pozonsky and his wife, Sara, moved to her home state of Alaska shortly after his leaving office but before their house in North Strabane Township sold for $410,000 in November, according to the Washington County Recorder of Deeds office.

Pension details were again requested by the O-R last week following questions about Pozonsky’s controversial hire in October as a worker’s compensation hearing officer with the Alaska Department of Labor in Anchorage at an annual salary of $80,000, as reported by the state’s Department of Administration.

This time, Hile provided the information since Pozonsky chose to be issued a partial lump-sum payment and the first of his monthly annuity payments Aug. 10. Pozonsky was 56 at the time of his retirement. The average age at which state judges retire is 60, according to SERS.

Information provided by Hiles indicated the former judge’s final average salary was $164,058.72 after serving nearly 28 1/2 years with the state, including 14 as a county court judge and the remainder as a district judge in Cecil Township.

The lump-sum payment made to Pozonsky represented all or a portion of his contributions to his retirement plan, plus 4 percent statutory interest compounded annually, which he elected to receive at retirement.

Pozonsky resigned Thursday from his Alaska post after media there questioned whether his family’s political connections played a role in his hiring.

Pozonsky is the brother-in-law of Chuck Kopp, an aide to Eagle River Republican Sen. Fred Dyson, the newspaper reported. Kopp also was picked by then-Gov. Sarah Palin to serve as Alaska public safety commissioner but lasted just 14 days before resigning amid sexual harassment allegations from a former job.

Last week, Anchorage Daily News columnist Shannyn Moore raised questions about the hiring process for the position Pozonsky was given. The application process had been closed, candidates had been interviewed and a hiring decision appeared imminent when “the application process was re-opened, a new application arrived, and a late applicant, Paul Pozonsky, got hired,” the column said.

“Personnel records, including information about an applicant’s interview and selection process, are confidential” under state law, said Greg Cashen, assistant labor commissioner, according to an Associated Press report.

Pozonsky’s wife is the former Sara Crapuchettes, whose brother is Kopp. She is the granddaugther of Alaska homesteaders, and her late father started Christian schools in the state. She and sister-in-law Trish Kopp, who also is an aide to Dyson, run a seafood business, Wild Alaskan Salmon Co.

Sarah Pozonsky recently recorded an album and is selling her songs on the Internet. Her husband sang backup on one of the songs.

She also has completed a documentary, entitled “A Fishy Tale,” that examines the ill effects of fish farming. The documentary is set to be released this spring.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

View More from this Author



blog comments powered by Disqus