tampabay.com

State, ex-wife want Crosby pension

By LUCY MORGAN
Published July 22, 2006


State retirement officials are demanding that former Corrections Secretary James V. Crosby return more than $200,000 in retirement benefits, but half of them were awarded to his former wife, Leslie, in a divorce settlement reached this month.

On July 10 Crosby appeared in federal court and admitted taking kickbacks from a vendor that helped operate prison commissaries. It was part of a deal with prosecutors designed to shorten any prison sentence he might get and avoid prosecution for other crimes. Despite the deal, Crosby and Allen C. Clark, a protege who was a regional director in the prison system, face up to 10 years in federal prison after they get through cooperating with an investigation by state and federal agents.

A day later the final judgment dissolving Crosby's marriage was recorded in Marion County.

On the same day, state retirement director Sarabeth Snuggs wrote to Crosby advising him that his conviction of a felony involving a breach of public trust will require him to forfeit all pension and retirement benefits.

Crosby turns 54 in August. He had worked for the state prison system since 1975. He withdrew $215,326 in retirement benefits in March and has been getting $5,499 a month in pension benefits since Gov. Jeb Bush forced him to resign in February.

Crosby has been the target of a wide-ranging federal and state investigation for more than a year. More than 20 other prison officers who worked for him have also been charged with crimes ranging from steroid trafficking to grand theft.

Under an order issued July 7 in Ocala, Marion Circuit Judge Sandra Edwards Stephens found Mrs. Crosby is entitled to half of her former husband's retirement benefit. The couple were married in October 1977. They have two children, 20 and 26.

Steve Andrews, the Tallahassee lawyer representing Crosby in the criminal case, said his former wife is a "totally innocent spouse" who deserves her share of his pension.

Andrews would not discuss the reason for the divorce but said Crosby is living with his parents in Starke while his wife kept the family home in the same area. The Crosbys also owned a house in Tallahassee that they bought in early 2003 when Bush appointed Crosby to the top corrections job. It was sold in May for $209,000.

State officials could challenge Mrs. Crosby's right to the pension benefits. Snuggs could not be reached for comment Friday.