Yesterday, it came to light that three members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference were listed as chairs of committees that they do not in fact chair, but were still given stipends that should go to the committee chairs. Just in case you thought this was going to be a problem reserved to one of the three parties int he State Senate, don't worry, because a followup has revealed that four Republican State Senators who didn't chair committees they were on also received stipends that were only supposed to go to the committee chairs.

The Times reports that Republican State Senators Thomas O’Mara, Patrick Gallivan, Patty Richie and Pamela Helming were identified as committee chairs in payroll listings sent from the Senate to the state comptroller. This entitled them to stipends usually given to committee chairs, despite the fact that they did not chair any of the committees.

O'Mara and Gallivan were paid $15,000 and $18,000 respectively in March and April despite not serving as chairs of the Transportation or Education committees, and Helming was paid for chairing the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction committees. Senator Ritchie was paid $15,000 after she was listed as the chair of the Health committee in a payroll listing, despite the fact that she actually serves as the committee's deputy vice chair.

The Health committee is actually chaired by State Senator Kemp Hannon, who takes a stipend as the Assistant Majority Leader on Conference Operations. State Senator David Valesky was previously listed as the chair of the Health committee in 2015 and 2016, despite serving as a vice chair. State law prohibits state senators from taking more than one stipend at a time, and so Hannon takes the larger stipend for his role in GOP leadership in the State Senate. State law doesn't lay out what to do with an unclaimed stipend though.

The story about GOP members getting improper payments comes on the heels of the news of State Senators Valesky, Diane Savino and Jose Peralta, all members of the breakaway IDC faction, getting listed as committee chairs in payroll requests. NY1's Zack Fink tweeted a picture of the payroll requests, that in fact show Senators Savino and Peralta listed as chairs of the Codes and Energy and Telecommunications committees and another one showing Senator Ritchie listed as chair of the Health committee.

In reaction to the story about the improperly paid stipends, the heads of good government groups NYPIRG, Common Cause New York, the Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters sent Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan a letter in which they said the payments feed "public cynicism about state government transparency" and called on him to end the payment of stipends to members who serve as vice chairs on committees. The letter goes on:

The Legislative Law section 5-a authorizes additional payments to committee chairs and ranking committee members in recognition of the additional workload these part-time legislators take on as part of their public service. For the committee chairs to forgo these amounts specifically authorized under law for their work chairing the committees and divert their stipends to other committee members subverts the rationale for the additional financial allowances and is patently misleading to the public. If the Legislature believes that special capacity allowances are appropriate for committee members other than the chair and ranking minority member, the remedy is to amend the Legislative Law in a transparent manner to authorize such payments under law.

"As a duly recognized legislative conference, the Independent Democrat Conference is entitled to parity with every other duly recognized conference in the Senate," IDC spokesperson Candice Giove told Gothamist in a response to a question about the payments to Senators Valesky, Peralta and Savino.

Representatives for Senators O'Mara, Gallivan, Helming and Ritchie could not be reached for comment.