NYS Exposed: Convicted state Senators get their taxpayer chair for a steal

February 02, 2017 11:24 PM

Did you know that New York State lawmakers can buy their leather-bound legislature chair for just $25? The deal isn't just for the lawmakers that serve honorably and retire. It's offered to the crooks too. 

  • Long-standing practice allows outgoing NYS lawmakers to buy their legislature chair for $25
  • Convicted felons Sens. Skelos, Sampson and Libous all bought their chairs for $25
  • NYS Senate spent more than $30,000 since 2014 replacing legislature chairs

When the average person retires, they don't get this kind of deal, especially if they get kicked out of the job because they get convicted of a crime. But, shocker, the rules for state lawmakers are different.

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Put yourself in Keith Meyer's shoes. In 13 months, he plans to retire but because his property taxes are so high, more than $8,000 on his home in Greece. He doesn't think he can afford to retire in New York State.

Keith Meyer, Greece: "It's sad that I'm being forced out I believe because I just can't afford the taxes. It's 50 percent of my mortgage."

We didn't help Keith when we showed him that New York State Senators, when they leave the chamber, get to buy their chairs for $25, even the ones that break the law. 

Keith Meyer, Greece: "I don't understand how criminals, and it seems like criminals lately around here, are getting better deals and more consideration than the hardworking taxpayer."

This entitlement goes back decades and over the last two years nine state Senators bought their chair. That includes Senators Dean Skelos, the late Tom Libous and John Sampson who all got convicted of public corruption. They still got the deal.

Blair Horner, NY Public Interest Research Group: "It should be crystal clear that if you're a crook you shouldn't get any discounts no matter what your time of service is."

Is $25 a a good deal? The company that sells the chairs to the state, Phoenix Furniture in Brooklyn, wouldn't tell us their price. So we asked Victor Furniture in Pittsford to look at the chairs and give us an estimate. The estimated retail price: Somewhere between $1,500 and $2,300. That explains why the state Senate spent $30,000 on furniture over the last two years.

Now add to that the money the state is going to have to spend to replace the chairs bought by the three convicted felons and the other seven state Senators who retired honorably. That list includes former Senator Mike Nozzolio. We reached out to him to talk about his chair. We never heard back.

Former Democratic State Senator Ted O'Brien bought his senate chair after he lost re-election in 2014. He declined to talk to us about it.

We asked our current state Senators if they plan to buy their chairs. They either declined to answer the question, ignored the question or said they weren't available. So we went to someone who did buy their chair, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich. He was in the New York State Assembly for 11 years.

Brean: "What do you think about the practice of allowing state lawmakers the option of buying their chair for $25?"
Bill Reilich, (R-Greece) former NYS Assemblyman: "Well let me put it this way; this has been a long practice for decades. So it's nothing new. I can tell you that when someone leaves the Town of Greece Town Board they don't get a chair to buy. We don't follow that practice. But I looked at it as a way to save our local taxpayers money."

Reilich said he bought his chair to replace the old one in the supervisor's office. 

Reilich: "So instead of having the town buy a new chair for whatever it cost, I don't think you can find any type of chair for $25, so that's what I'll use for the time I'm here."

Twenty-one state Assemblymen and women left the government this month. None of them bought their chair even though they had the option.


Berkeley Brean

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