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‘Use it or lose it’ must be enacted

Published: Sun, August 25, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

The recent act of generosity by Dr. Cynthia Anderson, retired Youngstown State University president, unfortunately was overshadowed by the obscenity that is the public-sector retirement system. Not only are the pensions drawn by public employees in Anderson’s strata unconscionable, but retirees walk away with jaw-dropping severance checks.

Thus, when Anderson announced that she was donating her $117,555 sayonara pay to a scholarship fund she created several years ago in memory of her parents, the amount caused this writer to cry out in despair, “Will this madness never end?”

The answer, of course, is that the madness is an integral part of the system — as evidenced by the number of prominent local public figures who have ended their careers laughing all the way to the bank.

But before strolling down memory lane, let’s take a peek at Anderson’s compensation file.

When she was appointed president on July 1, 2010, her salary skyrocketed from $142,256 (in her position as vice president for student affairs) to $350,000. In the second year at the helm, she earned $375,000; in the third, $400,000.

Entertainment expenses

The figures did not include the value of a vehicle she got from the university, professional dues and travel and entertainment expenses.

Anderson retired on July 1 of this year, and while her pension is confidential, it’s a safe bet she’s pulling in quite a pile of dough.

In calculating pensions, the State Teachers Retirement System uses the following formula: 2.2 percent of the number of years of service provides the percentage multiplier to be applied to the average of the three highest years of salary.

In addition, for the 31st year of service, the pension payment is increased by 2.5 percent, and for each subsequent year by one-tenth of a percent.

Considering that Anderson retired after 34 years and the average of the three highest annual salaries was $375,000, her pension could be (emphasis on the word could) … (You, dear private sector worker, will have the pleasure of calculating the pension.)

Only the former president of YSU knows how much she’s making in retirement, so if the guesstimate is wrong perhaps she’ll come forward with the actual amount.

After all, she has shown a willingness to share — as in contributing her severance pay to the Lawrence R. and Garnet P. Anderson Scholarship Fund.

So, how did she wind up with the separation pay? By claiming $76,924 in unused sick time and $40,631 in unused vacation time.

But before Anderson is burned in effigy, consider her predecessor, Dr. David Sweet, who was at YSU for 10 years as president.

Sweet claimed $60,276 in unused sick time and $37,959 in unused vacation. He walked away with a check for $98,235.

But wait.

Remember Dr. Wendy Webb, the former superintendent of the Youngstown City School District whose tenure was an abject failure?

Webb, with a background in library science, walked away with $111,153 in severance pay.

She claimed 285 days of sick leave, 56 personal days and 72 vacation days.

During her six-plus years as superintendent, the Youngstown district was in state-mandated fiscal and academic emergency. It was the worst district in the state.

Then there was Dr. Kathryn Hellweg, former superintendent of Warren city schools, who left after six years with a check for $101,000. The school board paid her $55,000 to buy out the last five months of her contract, and another $46,000 in separation pay and unused vacation.


The bottom line is that being a public employee not only means looking forward to a pension that is more lucrative than what the average private- sector worker receives, but leaving with a severance check that is based on the fallacy that people who don’t take sick leave or vacation days are somehow entitled to the money.

So, why won’t the Legislature enact a “use-it-or-lose- it” provision for all public employees? Because many senators and representatives invariably end up in government jobs and, therefore, aren’t willing to kill the goose that’s laying the golden eggs.

A constitutional amendment to end the madness may be our best hope.


1jupiter(116 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

These articles are comical. To the point of obsession, Bertrum has made a career of attempting to paint public-employees as the "enemy." What is glaringly absent in these editorials (I use the term loosely-"propaganda" is more accurate) is the disclosure that many of these amounts are for MANAGEMENT, not rank-and-file public employees.
The Vindy's editorial pages are nothing more than (feeble) attempts at divisive talking-points masquerading as public policy solutions. The fact that Bert is even able to collect a paycheck for this disingenuous weekly drivel is testament to the abysmal standards for true journalism in this area.
"Print" isn't truly dead...people are just tired of reading the same garbage written by the same unimaginative hacks attempting to hide their own ineffectual existences behind poorly written and poorly researched articles/editorials. High-school newspapers have more relevance these days than the Vindy does.

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2BigJim2234(57 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

You should of been a teacher or county worker. They make so much money. The teachers I had in Struthers made no money and were not rich.
Presidents of universities usually make good money but no where close to CEO 's of companies.

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3Letstryagain(218 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

It would seem to me that the arguments presented would make much more sense if:

1. You provided statewide information regarding the amount of money distributed due to unused sick time and unused vacation time. Information in total should not violate any privacy concerns.

2. Determined what the rules in other states/municipalities are regarding unused vacation and/or sick time.

3. Investigate why some companies require employees to take vacations and be physically removed from the workplace during that time.

If you are really concerend about this problem, you will research this issue in support of your Constitutional Amendment. It would not be very logical to make a decision based solely on the information provided in this op-ed. That would be taking the facts true to a few in the census and applying it to the whole.

Try that with a group of first graders because a few are acting up and listen to the outrage.

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4redeye1(5663 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

gdog I never ever thought I would agree with you , but I like your idea.

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5Penguinz(18 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I would gladly take the quarterly bonuses, company cars, other fringe benefits not to mention salary that come with the private sector! And why now a story on Anderson? Where was this during last round of negotiations while faculty and other groups were vilified? One would think the Vindy would try and be a tad more supportive of YSU.. So goes YSU, so goes the Vindy's tired worn out narrative they spin every couple weeks. How about a more topical story about, say, about future of print media, or lack thereof.

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6citizen2014(6 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

You place the blame in the wrong place. I agree that the sick leave and vacation time sell back is foolish in this day and age. And yes a minimum was set by the state legislature. But the blame lies with the YSU Trustees, Local Boards of Education, City Councils, Township Trustees, etc. They are the people who negotiate the employee contracts and pass them as part of their duties in such elected and appointed positions. These additions above and beyond what the state set as a minimum is placed at the feet of the our appointed trustees and elected officials. Public elected and appointed public officials generally have little backbone when it comes to dealing with public employees. They usually give away the ship.

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7grand4dad(219 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Jupiter is right on. These big time payoffs are almost always at the top - that's right, the management folks NOT the average public employee. Bertram should do some real research on this subject. Instead of slamming all public employees, why don't you concentrate on trying to fix the abuses at the top. Oh wait, I forgot, the vindy usually supports that sort of thing. Remember their editorial in support of the retire/rehire deal recently handed to Youngstown superintendent Dr. Hathorne. Now he gets a good salary plus his pension. Wonder if he got a severence pay off also or is he just continuing to accumulate it all for an even bigger payoff when he decides he is finally ready to leave his job???

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8kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I'd love to get paid twice for doing the same job. Bertram is right in calling for the rescinding of this rip-off. The accumulated sick-pay part, especially, is crazy- if you're well enough to go to work- you get paid- so, why should you also get paid the money you might have made if you weren't well enough to go to work, but, you did go to work and you got paid, so, you're getting paid twice. Nice Deal. (The logic behind this is right out of "Alice in Wonderland". I wonder if Union Organizers study Lewis Carroll- sounds to me like they do!)

If you applied that kind of surreal logic to the entire economy, we'd be ruined (even more than we are now): The Vindicator, for instance, if a reporter or columnist is too ill to write or report- they're allowed sick pay, which is fair- but, if they're healthy enough to report or write, they still want their sick pay in addition to what they already earned for reporting and writing (which was solely intended to protect them if they weren't healthy enough to report or write). Does that make sense?

You know what it sounds like to me- People abusing a safety net program for Profit- in other words, People behaving like greedy Pigs. You know, I will never think of Welfare Cheats again, without thinking of the YPD, the YFD, the Teachers, and all the other underpaid (ha! ha!) civil servants out there double-dipping their little hearts out. At least the Welfare people have the excuse of being poor and desperate.

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9kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Another example of "double-dipping". I do handyman work- a lot of it plumbing, so if I quote someone $75.00 for opening a kitchen drain- but then add another $75.00 with the explanation: "That's there in case I'm too sick to come out and do the job- but I bill it anyway".

What do you think the customers reaction would be!? About the same as the taxpayers- they'd feel they were being held-up- only difference is, my customer would laugh at me and call another plumber- WE TAXPAYER'S ARE STUCK.

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10kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

You know, I keep reading posts which complain about DeSouza's columns being "all the same"- same thing over and over again, that kind of thing.

There is a consistency in his work. I've been reading his columns for 20 years, if not longer, and what I note is a recurrent theme- a commentary and critique of the political corruption endemic to Mahoning County: the names change, used to be "Bull Moose" Hanni, "Jimbo" Traficant, "Pretty Boy" Philomena, "Twinkle Toes" Morley, Phil Chance with his lightning-struck hairdo and now we have Davey Betras and his Gang to carry on the legacy.

That's Desouzas material and I'm glad he brings it up- who else does (other than the FBI). It's the ripe fruit of political mono-culture- rich and gamey, there for the plucking.

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11TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

While I do not disagree with the substance of the article or the above posts, in reality there is very little that can be done about it. I have to laugh however at the unbridled envy DeSouza and is followers convey. Like there is a soul amongst them that wouldn't take every dime and every benefit. Especially Bert, everyone knows the Vindy SUCKS to work for. I actually wish I had one of those positions and the truth of it is so does everyone who bitches about them.

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12kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I go back to what I said in my comment: Why should anyone- public or private- get paid twice for the same work? If you don't actually need to use your allotted sick days- YOU SHOULDN'T GET PAID FOR THEM! It's double dipping pure and simple. What's so hard to understand about that.

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13kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Terra said that while he agrees with most of Bert's Column (about Public employee rape of the taxpayers) there "isn't much that can be done about it".

Oh, really! The remedy is called SB5. It was narrowly passed, and rescinded, but eventually taxpayers-enough of them- are going to realize that reining in Greedy Public Sector Unions is the only way to avoid ending up like Detroit Michigan, or, the State of California- BANKRUPT.

Besides, there's another component here to consider- the irrational part. If a bull is already mad, t's generally not a good idea to pull out a red handkerchief. The arrogance and contempt (for the taxpayer) I notice among many in the public sector, reminds me of that- waving a red handkerchief in front of an angry bull.

P.S. Also, your mean-spirited, petty attack on DeSouza, was just that: mean spirited, petty- and dumb. You don't like what the man says, so you attack the man.

So Vindicator Jobs suck? I guess compared to most public sector jobs that's true- you get paid for performance, you can be fired at will, you don't get to cash in for sick days you didn't need, and you can't hoard vacation days, either.

It's true, those kinds of jobs do suck but they're the kinds of jobs most of us in the private sector have- we can't all be Police Chiefs or University Idlers, er, Professors. I used to hear envious comments about the GM workers- they made more money than anybody- they got paid for sitting on their Behinds (the Job Bank- remember that particular Scam?). But then, we all know what happened! GM went Bankrupt and had to be bailed out by Uncle Sam. If it happened to GM, it can happen to municipalities as well- for the same reason- out of control Unions. Detroit- California- are we far behind?

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14TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

KURTW you got waaayyy too much time on your hands. Go donate some of your time. Read to the blind, anything youre just not that enlightening to direct all of our social ills through a message board. Unemployed or bitterly retired.

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15mnascar(38 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

When you go to a 100% private sector school system. This will change. With more and more charter schools, and online schools K-12 education will change. Public schools will be a thing of the past. Then your Youngstown teachers have the stones to talk strike like they are hurting. Can't get blood out of a rock! They will suck the last breath of life out of the schools. All of them that are public. Don't forget to go to Buckeye.org to see what your favoriate worker on the dole of the taxpayer brings in. Firefighters and police are just as bad raking in the bug bucks. Where else can you retire and get the same job for the same pay. Were still getting that Skyscraper from Islay's. Double dipped! See it starts at home! Don't blame Washington. Your happy with the way it runs in your own town by your friends and neighbors.

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16badeepster(124 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Sorry deScumbag--since you chose a profession that is dying a slow and painful death, your constant attack on public employees continues to be laughable. Bad choice on your part, eh? Here's your best hope: hop back on the boat you came here on and go back to wherever it is you came from and start over.

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17citizen2014(6 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Let me say this once again as no one picked up on this. Sure the state legislature sets minimums for sick leave and vacation sell back, but it is not automatic, It is the local trustees of the university, the city councils, township trustees, county commissioners, school board etc., that negotiate this in contracts. This must be negotiated locally for it to happen. Once again I say be careful who you vote as your local public officials.

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18kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the unsolicited advice, Terra, but I don't spend much time at the computer: it doesn't take that much time to write these posts. And the beauty of being connected to the internet is that if you need to look anything up- it's all there.

For instance, I just looked up the word "Bigotry". It means: "the state of mind of someone who, as a result of prejudice, treats other people with fear, hatred, or contempt....based on their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, etc. etc.".

Now do you think that your reply to me- where you stage a personal attack because you don't like what I have to say- and, even more so, Badeepsters Post titled: "Sorry de Scumbag,...here's your best hope: hop back on the boat you came here on and go back to wherever it is you came from and start over", qualifies?

If the shoe fits, wear it. But, I would say that if referring to someone- from a culture or ethnicity different than our own- as "de Scumbag" and telling them to go back where they came from, doesn't qualify as "Bigotry", then nothing does.

My only reason for making these posts is to express my own opinion (and I have fun doing it)- not to "enlighten" or "direct" anyone.

As far as my occupation is concerned- I have a pension which I supplement with Handyman Work, chiefly Plumbing, mainly I clean out drains and, many times, when I read some of these posts, I think of a sewer.

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19TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

KURTW here's something you probably wouldn't solicit, "You're a dick".

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20TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh also envy is one of the seven deadly sins. I'm sure you would simply refuse the benefits promised you upon employment.

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21NoBS(2827 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Boys, boys, boys!!!!

Buying back sick time was negotiated as a bargain for both sides. The management/administration saved 50% (assuming the buyback is 50 cents on the dollar as most are) over what they would have paid had the employee taken the days off. And the employee gets incentive not to use the sick days unnecessarily. Now, for the self-styled tough guys who would thump their chests and insist that you can only take a sick day if you're sick - you're just lying to yourself. Almost everybody has taken a day, or a half day, for another reason than that they're sick. It happens all the time. And human nature being what it is, "Use It Or Lose It" guarantees the days - 100% of them - will be used.

But, if you'd rather pay out 100%, and maybe have to pay someone else time-and-a-half to cover the job while the sick time user is off, that's fine. Just don't yap about absenteeism - you're making them do it. The way workers feel about management these days, just about everywhere, you can forget them just giving the time back. It won't happen. Anywhere.

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22kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Terra, I've been called that before- more than once.

Doesn't bother me in the least.

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23kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm looking over the post by NoBs carefully- there has to be something wrong with that line of reasoning somewhere- I'm still working on it...

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24kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

I didn't realize it was 50 cents on the Dollar. In a way, that does make sense. Possibly- Can it Be?- I might have been wrong about this issue.

Oh, well- not the first time and, I'm sure, it won't be the last (proves that it's a lot better to take careful aim- than to quick draw and fire).

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25citizen2014(6 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

And on top of all that there are limits to the amount of days that can be sold back in various contracts. Not all of the days can be sold back. Public school teachers do NOT have vacation days. They are not paid for the Christmas, Spring vacation and summer whenthey don't work. If they didn;t have a sick day and took a day off they would lose about 1/180th of their pay. That's alot of money.The other thing is many employees save the days over their career to use if they have a major illness like a heart attack and need to use several months of time while remaining an employee and returning to the position once held when healthy again. Not everyone takes the days off. Many might need them for the future. I say let them save them days for a serious illness but not sell them back when they retire. Use or lose is foolish to a smart person who might simply be protecting themselves in case of a major illness.

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26kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

It's true what you say- but isn't it also true that teachers get a full salary for only 9 months of the year- that's pretty good- I wouldn't mind that (I would either spend my time in idleness- or apply myself in some way. I would have to toss a coin which- but, the point is, I would have the option which most workers don't).

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27grand4dad(219 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

yes it is true teachers are paid a full salary for the full 9 months of the school year. but most only make very modest salaries. in some cases they can choose to be paid only in the months they work or they can opt to spread the salary out in equal 12 month installments. either way, they are not paid huge salaries for the work they do. most that i know have to supplement with other part-time or summer jobs just to make ends meet. and most do not get huge payouts at retirement. teachers are not the bad guys in the public sector. the abuses are at the top like superintendents, university presidents, etc. thanks for having an open mind on this subject and considering all sides of the issue.

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28citizen2014(6 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Under Ohio Revised Code teachers individually may not negotiate to be paid over a nine month period.(Some union contracts [few if any] have been negotiated to permit a small fraction of teachers in a given district [say 4 or 5]to receive their pay during 9 months, but they are considered employees for 12 months dispite having received all their pay. The reason pay is required to be paid over 12 months is that if they were paid over a 9 month period they could claim unemployment during the other three months so the state made all teachers unions negotiate pay to be spread out over 12 months. Thus making them 12 month employees who only earn pay for the individual days they work(not the summer or other days school is not in session). The school districts hold back pay during the school year so teachers will be able to receive checks in the summer when they are not earning pay.Teachers do not earn 9 months pay. They earn daily pay. Most earn pay for 184 days but collect it over 365 days usually 1/26th in bi weekly checks every other week. The school districts can legally invest that money that is held back and earn interest then pay it in the summer.The schools can legally earn a profit on the teachers' money that is held in escrow for summer check.

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29citizen2014(6 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Most school principals work 204 days and only earn pay for 204 days. The other 161 days of the 365 day calendar year they are considered employees but earn no pay and are not required to show up to work. Some principals have the same working day contract as the superintendent of schools which is usually 260 days with some vacation days .Actually those principals are required to work every day of the year except paid holidays. They are required to work Christmas Eve day and New Years Eve day unless they take a vacation day as they are 260 day employees(52 weeks x 5 days a week= 260 days). Sometimes a superintendnt closes a school on Christmas Eve day and New Years Eve day and forbids employees to be in the buildings. In that case a principal gets a free day with pay.School employees only earn pay for days they work not summer vacation and spring break, etc. The State of Ohio now requires the schools to make up snow days so the taxpayers will get they dollars worth and thechildren will be in school days teachers are paid.

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30TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago


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31TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Hey de Souza, I took a basic journalism course when I was 19 and was taught that to sound legitimate in your message is to acknowledge the points of argument of those you dispute which are in fact correct. However, the goal of objectivity has never really been a pursuit of yours. Okay then at least this then, what should be done next with the decrepit old building? How much more money should be dumped into the dump? At what point will you have the courage to recognize the obvious nightmare this monstrosity has become. You didn't just persecute those who opposed it based on their interactions, you TOTALLY agreed that it was a good idea. Can't believe the deafening silence regarding this huge story. It was pounded daily when your gang was trying to sell their point-now nothing.

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32southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

This is NOT news...it is a well-documented fact that University Presidents make an obscene amount of money...that is one reason tuition rates increase in combination with Federal & State budget reductions...

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33HowlandCitizen(34 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't mind them getting paid for their sick time, but it shouldn't be at their current rate of pay when they retire. Any unused sick time should be compensated for at the end of each year, at their current pay.

So, for example, a professor who is making $43k/year in his 5th year of teaching, who makes ~$20/hour, gets paid $200 for unused sick time at the end of the year, rather than it rolling over for 25 years until he retires, when he's the president of the university and making $400k, or $200/hour.

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34NoBS(2827 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Howland Citizen, per Ohio state law, sick time accumulates - it is not bought back at the end of the year. If the employee saves up his sick time, then has a heart attack in his 30th year of employment, he's entitled to use the entire amount of sick time he has accumulated. That's 100% at the current pay rate. 50% is still a bargain. You guys just can't stand someone else getting something you're not.

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35Not_Surprised(48 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Here is something I'd like to know. How does a county worker go out on permanent workers comp AND and a pers disability retirement and get to KEEP both benefits after being convicted and doing time for selling the pain killers paid for on the workers comp claim?

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