Connecticut employee sexually abused disabled women, still eligible for state pension
Ellis K. Hagstrom was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2014 for the repeated rape and sexual abuse of two disabled women he was supposed to care for while working for the Department Developmental Services. Staff members at a Danielson, Connecticut group home noticed bruises on the legs of a severely autistic woman who lacks the ability to speak. During the subsequent police investigation Hagstrom confessed to sexually abusing two women over a period of ten years.
However, due to Connecticut’s strict policies on pension revocation Hagstrom will still be eligible to receive his pension. “Mr. Hagstrom’s convictions do not qualify as predicate convictions,” said Jaclyn Falkowski, spokeswoman for the Office of the Attorney General, “thus barring action by our office to seek revocation of his pension.”
According to state statute, an employee’s pension can only be revoked if the crime was an attempt to make some form of monetary gain. Since Hagstrom did not benefit financially from his crimes he is still eligible to receive his pension and healthcare benefits.
In 2008, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal expressed outrage that convicted sex offenders were still able to receive state pension benefits paid for by tax-payers. Blumenthal pushed for the state legislature to enact pension revocation rules.
The legislature did pass a law in 2008 but it was limited to crimes involving embezzlement, theft, bribery and fraud and does not apply to Hagstrom nor any other state employee convicted of similar crimes. “The pension revocation law enacted by the General Assembly in 2008 very narrowly defines the predicate convictions under which we can bring a pension revocation action,” Falkowski wrote in an email.
Other states have less restrictive statutes that enable them to revoke a public employee’s pension for a wider range of criminal behavior. For instance, Illinois law says that any felony arising out of public service can cause an employee to lose their benefits. Rhode Island also says that any person who commits a crime related to their duties in public office can have their pensions revoked.
After confessing to the state police in 2011, Hagstrom said he had developed a personal connection with the two women. He was then placed on “administrative leave,” pending an internal investigation by DDS. Despite his arrest and confession in November of 2011, Hagstrom still received more than $64,000 in pay and fringe benefits over the course of FY 2012.
According to the Department of Administrative Services an employee can be placed on administrative leave for up to 30 days with pay pending any kind of criminal charge. The state agency must also complete its own investigation before disciplinary action can be taken, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
Hagstrom worked for DDS for twenty-five years before his arrest. He will be released in 2030 when he is 76 years old and has not yet filed to receive his pension.
The conservator for victim’s estate won a $5.6 million settlement against the DDS on May 25. It is not yet known if the second victim will be pursuing a similar lawsuit.