Legal Definition of ''malfeasance''

In Bellis v. Board of Pensions and Retirement, 160 Pa. Commw. 314, 634 A.2d 821 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993) a city councilman was convicted of eight counts of bribery and one count of violating the election laws. He applied for a reinstatement of his pension benefits, and the Board denied his request because his bribery convictions resulted in forfeiture under Section 217.1 of the Philadelphia Retirement System Ordinance (replaced by the Retirement Code in 1999) dealing with bribery, graft or corruption and malfeasance in office or employment. In Bellis the Court defined malfeasance as " 'not merely error in judgment or departure from sound discretion, but the act, omission or neglect must be wilful, corrupt and amount to a breach of duty legally required by one who has accepted public office.' " Id., 634 A.2d at 825 (quoting Commonwealth v. McSorley, 189 Pa. Super. 223, 150 A.2d 570, 572 (Pa. Super. 1959)). The Court also referred to the Superior Court's holding in Commonwealth v. Bellis, 324 Pa. Super. 506, 472 A.2d 194, 200 (Pa. Super. 1984) (quoting Commonwealth v. Peoples, 345 Pa. 576, 579, 28 A.2d 792, 794 (1942)), aff'd, 508 Pa. 122, 494 A.2d 1072 (1985), that malfeasance occurs when there is "either the breach of a positive statutory duty or the performance by a public official of a discretionary act with an improper or corrupt motive." The Court held in Bellis that the underlying illegal act, as opposed to the particular crime, formed the basis for a forfeiture in that case, and it concluded that the bribery conviction fit the description of malfeasance under subsection 5 of the Retirement System Ordinance then in effect.