The CalPERS Board of Administration voted Wednesday to restore the $99,000-per-year pension of a retired California Highway Patrol officer who was convicted of sexually molesting his two daughters. Johnnie Swaim, 56, of Imperial, was convicted of four felonies by a jury in 2013 in Imperial County Superior Court for molesting the two girls when each was under 10 years old. He maintained he was innocent. Swaim was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2016, while in corrections department custody, he filed for retirement based on his last day of work for the CHP in 2011, and started receiving a pension, then worth about $93,300 per year.
CalPERS reduced his benefit last year to about $14,000, wiping out service credit for the time he worked after the date of first felony conviction, which CalPERS identified as in 1997. The retirement system cited a state law that prevents public employees who commit felonies in the course of their work from continuing to accrue pensions. Swaim appealed, arguing that his convictions weren’t work-related. An administrative law judge sided with him last month, saying that while his crimes were “despicable,” they weren’t connected to his work as a police officer.
On Wednesday, the board voted without discussion to accept the judge’s ruling and restore Swaim’s pension. With cost-of-living increases that have been applied since 2016, it will be worth about $99,000 per year.