We thought it was pretty darn bad that several notable convicted politicians, including Alan Hevesi, Joe Bruno, Guy Velella and Clarence Norman, continued to receive taxpayer-funded pensions worth tens of thousands of dollars a year even after they were convicted of criminal charges. But it turns out that even the ones who haven't been convicted yet are doing their own dirty dealings: at least 11 politicians are double-dipping, taking advantage of a loophole that allows entrenched elected officials to collect pension checks while still in office. And by the love of Costanza, it's just not right!
To claim the benefit of the loophole, an official only needs to "retire" on Dec. 31, then show up on New Year's Day to get sworn-in anew. Even though the Legislature closed the loophole in 1995, politicians elected to office before that date can still collect. And this year, 11 lawmakers, including seven Republicans and four Democrats, all filed their "retirement papers" with the state Comptroller's Office. That illustrious list includes Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, former state Democratic Chairman Herman Farrell, former Bronx Democratic Chairman José Rivera, and Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun (the Post conveniently leaves out the names of the other six Republicans, but makes sure to lead with the major Democrats involved). Lopez, 69, is expected to receive an estimated $88,000 pension annually on top of the $92,000 salary, while Farrell, 78, is eligible for a pension worth a projected $108,000 over his $113,500 salary.
Calhoun argues that taxpayers actually benefit from her taking her pension while she is still getting a salary, using what sounds like fuzzy math to us: "It's actually costing them less because if I retired in four, six years, my pension would have been higher. I actually will end up receiving less money from the State of New York," she said. Other politicians are clear-cut about what they feel is a wanton disregard for the public's trust: "It's not right and it shouldn't be done. It's double-dipping. People will continue to believe the worst about Albany when they read what these 10 people are doing. If they're my colleagues, shame on them," said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, who has authored a bill to remove elected officials and appointees from the pension system.