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March 9, 2015 (modified March 13, 2015, for email transmission)

W. Brooks Stillwell
Savannah City Attorney
P.O. Box 1027
6 East Bay Street
Gamble Building, 3rd floor
Savannah, Georgia 31401
RE: Request for review of your memorandum of February 13, 2015, to Savannah
Mayor and Alderman regarding the retirement benefit of former Police Chief
Willie Lovett
Dear Mr. Stillwell:
Your March 4, 2015, letter to the Attorney General has been referred to me for response.
You have requested review of your conclusions regarding whether the city pension of
former Police Chief Willie Lovett can be revoked or reduced as a result of his conviction
for crimes committed while in employment status. Because the City is not our client, we
cannot provide you with an opinion on this or any other matter, but from time to time our
office will review and comment on the written research and advice provided by a city or
county attorney. This review is not advice of counsel but is provided as a courtesy and is
limited to questions of state law. Such letters represent the analysis of the author and are
not opinions of the Attorney General. They also, of course, do not have the force or
effect of law and are not binding on the political subdivision.
Your memorandum of February 13, 2015, on the subject of the effect of O.C.G.A.
47-1-21 and 47-1-22 on Mr. Lovetts retirement benefit appears to be accurate. The
statutes cited provide no means to reduce or revoke the benefit provided by the City of
Savannah. This conclusion is based on my understanding that the conviction was based
on crimes committed during Mr. Lovetts employment with the City of Savannah Police
Department.
The following paragraphs respond to your numbered inquiries:
1. Since Lovett was hired as an officer in 1973, but was separately hired as chief
in October 2010, should the applicability of the forfeiture statute be measured

from the date he became chief, rather than the date he was originally hired by the
city?
Section 47-1-22 applies only to public retirement system members first or again
becoming public employees after July 1, 1985. According to the information provided,
Mr. Lovetts retirement system membership began when he became employed by the
Savannah Police Department in 1973. Without a break in service or other separation
from employment status, his promotion in 2010 has no bearing on his date of hire or
membership date. The promotion does not constitute initial employment or
reemployment with the Savannah Police Department. The operative date for application
of the forfeiture statute is the date of first employment, not the date of hire or assignment
to different positions with his employer.
2. Would the forfeiture statute have applied in the event Lovett had been fired
instead of being allowed to resign and retire?
The terms of Mr. Lovetts separation from employment have no bearing on the
applicability or effect of O.C.G.A. 47-1-21 and 47-1-22. As you explained in your
memorandum of February 13, the vested benefit is not affected by the terms of separation
from employment.
3. Can the City initiate a forfeiture action because Lovett violated his oath of office
and misused SCMPD resources in protecting an illegal gambling operation?
Neither O.C.G.A. 47-1-21 nor 47-1-22 provides for such an action. Because of its
applicability only to those retirement plan participants whose were first or again hired
after July 1, 1985, Section 47-1-22 does not apply to Mr. Lovett. Likewise, because
Section 47-1-21 has the effect of terminating membership in a public retirement system,
not an ongoing, vested benefit from such system, it does not apply.
4. Since Lovett will cease to be a member of the pension plan when all of his
appeals of the conviction are exhausted, should the pension be terminated at that
time, because he will no longer be a member of the plan?
Mr. Lovetts 1973 membership date makes him subject only to O.C.G.A. 47-1-21(b),
which operates to terminate membership in a public retirement system upon conviction
of public employment related crime during employment, but not to terminate payment of
the retirement benefit to a former system participant who is retired.
I trust I have addressed the questions presented in your letter to the Attorney General.
Please contact me with any further concerns.
Sincerely,

s/Annette M. Cowart
ANNETTE M. COWART
Senior Assistant Attorney General