Was Deborah Madden's confession a move to keep her city pension? 

click to enlarge Former crime lab technician Deborah Madden, left, may have been looking to save her city pension with a recent misdemeanor drug plea. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP File Photo
  • Former crime lab technician Deborah Madden, left, may have been looking to save her city pension with a recent misdemeanor drug plea.

On March 15, disgraced former San Francisco crime lab technician Deborah Madden pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession.

Remember that Madden was charged with felony drug possession and admitted under oath that she took cocaine from the lab, but maintained that it was extra stuff that fell off the scale. Felony drug possession requires proof of fraud, and neither of the two juries that heard the case could agree unanimously that Madden got the drug by deception since she had legitimate access to it by virtue of her job.

So after two trials, Madden pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, saying, “I knowingly possessed cocaine outside the scope of my employment.”

Why the “outside the scope of my employment” part? I suspect that’s how Madden — a 29-year lab employee — plans to keep her pension and benefits.

Per the City Charter, an employee cannot lose the amount that he or she has paid into a retirement fund. That is safe, no matter what. But people can be stripped of the taxpayer-funded part if they are convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude in connection with his or her duties.”

In this case, Madden also claimed that an unnamed “friend” also gave her a small amount of the drug, so she’s only pleading guilty to that possession, which was “outside the scope” of her employment. In doing so, despite causing some 600 drug cases to be dismissed and admitting to an egregious breach of the public trust, she must be hoping to continue getting $5,485 per month plus cost-of-living increases for life.

The charter provisions regarding moral turpitude only apply to convictions, not to pleas, so we’ll have to wait until the next hearing in July to see what she’s actually convicted of. Not that there’s any reason to believe it will differ from the plea.

Depending on the conviction, The City’s retirement fund will have the last word on whether Madden has sufficiently tipped the scales in her favor.

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Melissa Griffin

Melissa Griffin

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