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NYS Exposed: Hundreds collect state salary and state pension

July 17, 2017 11:32 PM

As taxpayers, we expect New York state to be responsible steward of our money. But a state law that allows state employees to collect both a state pension and a state salary is causing some to call that into question.

"It goes against the underlying idea behind pensions to be letting someone get two checks at the same time," says Ken Girardin, Empire Center for Public Policy.

The Empire Center, a government watchdog group, maintains this database -- a list of every state employee using a Section 211 waiver to cash-in twice.

"At any given time, there are at least 700 people that have been given permission from the state," says Girardin.

State law allows state retirees who are under age 65 to go back to work, get a pay check, and still collect their full state pension -- two paychecks from New York state.

"Sometimes your best bet is to hire a retiree, but that's not the way that retirement programs are supposed to work," says Girardin. "That's definitely not how they work in the private sector. In the private sector, you get a paycheck or you are retired, it's one or the other. This is a phenomenon that is limited to government in New York."

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In the Rochester area, there are currently 24 active waivers. The two most common uses: the district attorney's offices and school districts.

"If the waivers being approved, it means the school has done its due diligence to try and find those people," says Sherry Johnson.

Sherry Johnson is the executive director of the Monroe County School Board Association. She represents five school districts that use this waiver currently for their director of security.

"School safety and security pre-Columbine was not the same animal as it is now," Johnson tells us.

Johnson says the requirements of the position makes retired officers the best candidates for the position -- the best to keep schools and your children safe.

Brett Davidsen: "You think it would be fairer to taxpayers if the individuals that are getting these waivers, maybe, froze their pensions while they were working in the districts rather than receive payment from both?"

Johnson: "What they get from the district is a salary. They don't get any other benefits."

"There are cost savings to the county," says Mark Kelley.

The Monroe County District Attorney's Office uses the waiver for all their investigators; Chief Investigator Mark Kelley does the hiring.

Brett Davidsen: "Is there someone that you can just go and pull and bring in and say, 'we found a good candidate?'

Kelley: "If there is, I haven't found one yet."

Johnson and Kelley agree experience is biggest advantage, but because retirees can supplement their salary and the fact that the law requires them not to receive any benefits in their new role -- they argue taxpayers get more bang for their buck.

"The salaries they were making when they left those jobs is substantially higher than the pay they're earning now," said Kelley. "It works for them because they are able to collect their pension."

Once a state retiree reaches 65, they no longer need the waiver and are free to collect both paychecks.

Credits

Brett Davidsen

Copyright 2017 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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