January 28, 2011
DiNapoli Proposes Pension Forfeiture Bill
Calls for Severe Penalties for Abuse of Public Trust
Public officials stand to lose pension benefits if they commit a felony related to the performance of their duties under a bill proposed today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli's bill also imposes a penalty up to twice the amount a public official benefitted from the commission of a crime committed in the course of his or her public duty.
"When public officials break the law while performing their public duty, they should forfeit their public pension, plain and simple," DiNapoli said. "It's time to take away the pension of anyone found guilty of committing a felony in the course of his or her official duties. No one who violates the public trust should be allowed to receive a taxpayer-funded pension. And the tough sanctions I'm pushing will remind every public official that violating the public trust will not be tolerated.
"Public confidence in government has been bruised and battered. This bill will be a strong step toward rebuilding trust."
"New York's pension system needs to be reformed and this is a logical first step," said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. "This proposal ensures government officials who violate the public trust are accountable for their misdeeds, not rewarded for them."
DiNapoli noted that while the state constitution prohibits any diminishment of retirement benefits for current public officials and public servants, the new felony provisions would apply to all current and future public officials and public servants.
Fulfilling a pledge made last fall, DiNapoli's legislation provides for the revocation of the pension benefits of future Retirement System members who are state or local elected officials, officers and appointees, including directors and members of public authorities and public benefit corporations, who are convicted of or plead to the commission of a job-related felony.
DiNapoli's bill also enhances penalties by elevating Official Misconduct to a felony and increasing the penalties for any abuse of the public trust by public employees in New York state. An abuse of the public trust entails committing a felony and using one's position as a public servant to commit or conceal a felony or to conspire to commit a felony.
Public officials who abuse the public trust would be forced to pay a penalty up to twice the amount they benefitted from the commission of the crime. In addition, Class A-1 and Class B felons would face increased incarceration time by four to 20 years depending on the severity of the crime. The monetary penalty and enhanced sentencing would be in addition to any other sanctions imposed by existing law. This portion of the bill would be applicable to all public servants in the state regardless of whether they are a member of the New York State and Local Retirement System.
The pension forfeiture provisions in DiNapoli's bill apply only to prospective members of the Retirement System so the bill will withstand legal challenges.
To view DiNapoli's proposed bill, visit: http://osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/jan11/forfeiture.pdf.