Sunday, December 6, 2015

Politicians protecting one another because they know when they're caught they want the same benefits.

Convicted for corruption, Sheldon Silver still collects a pension thanks to his fellow pols

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted of corruption Monday — and by Tuesday, he’d already filed his retirement papers.
Who can blame him? Under the state Constitution, he can still collect his juicy pension — close to $100,000 a year, by some estimates. For life.
Courtesy of New York taxpayers.
Yes, Silver earned millions by steering state cash to a doctor who, in turn, sent patients to his lawfirm. Yes, he backed legislation to help a real-estate firm that hired a law firm he shared fees with.
But courts have ruled public pensions are constitutionally protected assets that can’t be seized — even when the pensioners are guilty of gross malfeasance.
Gov. Cuomo, who has been vowing to clean up Albany since before he took office, has tried to change that. In 2011, he got the Legislature to OK pension forfeiture by law-breaking officials who began their careers after the bill took effect.
Yet New York’s Constitution would have to be amended to impose the same kind of penalty on those who took office before then.
So the state Senate passed a bill this year calling for just such an amendment.
Guess who blocked it?
Shelly’s former Assembly colleagues.
They claimed the bill was too broad — that it would hit not just elected officials and high-ranking staffers, but also ordinary “janitors.” In fact, Carl Heastie bowed to pressure from organized labor — particularly the teachers union — which feared it might end up costing some members their pensions.
And what if it did?
Regardless, with the Assembly’s failure to act this year, the constitutional amendment is dead for now. That means longer-serving lawmakers needn’t fear losing their pensions even if they’re found guilty of a crime. Any wonder so many feel so ready to break the law?
The simple fact is lawmakers should pay a high price for betraying the public trust — and not just in terms of a prison sentence. If they’re going to use their positions to line their pockets, those pockets don’t deserve any more taxpayer dollars.
It’s time to end golden retirements for crooks.

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