Montesano Looks to Governor and Comptroller For Support in Stripping State Pensions from Convicted Felons

January 13, 2011

Assemblyman Michael A. Montesano (R,I,C-Glen Head) sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and Comptroller DiNapoli requesting support for Assembly bill 000271. The bill would deny retirement benefits to public officials convicted of felonies related to the unlawful use of their position.

“These criminals clearly violated the public’s trust and should suffer the full consequences of that breach,” said Montesano. “If you violate the oath you took when taking public office, you should not have the privilege of retiring on the taxpayer dime. The sheer number of public officials convicted of felonies is shocking and when you consider the ledge that the pension fund is dangling on, it adds another frightening dimension to the issue. With the support of the governor and comptroller, I hope we can address this most troubling issue.”

Person gets elected to office; person uses office for personal benefit. Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar for New Yorkers. When one thinks of such a scenario, specific individuals come to mind, including former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, former Roslyn School District Superintendent Frank Tassone, former Assembly members Anthony Seminerio and Clarence Norman, Jr. just to name a few. All of these men were accused of using their office for personal benefit and all continued to receive a state pension. Just recently, former State Senator Vinny Leibell filed for retirement days before his guilty plea to federal prosecutors. Montesano’s Assembly bill (000271) would put an end to this egregiously unjust practice.

“This bill was originally submitted last year, but was held in committee,” said Montesano. “I believe it to be an important issue so I resubmitted the bill for the current session and I hope that with the support of my colleagues in the Assembly, as well as the support of Governor Cuomo and Comptroller DiNapoli, it will find its way to the floor of the Assembly for action.”

Governor Cuomo has publicly called for major ethics reforms, including the need for a law that would end pensions for public officials convicted of felonies. Similarly, Comptroller DiNapoli has called for a similar measure saying that it would act as a “deterrent.”

“Both the governor and the comptroller appear to support fixing this problem. We cannot afford to let this pit of ethical and financial disaster grow. I truly believe this issue defies the typical partisan boundaries as it is at the core of making meaningful ethics reform and restoring the public’s trust. If we work together to pass this bill, we can rid ourselves of this embarrassing practice, restore faith in government, save money, and build a foundation for future bipartisan efforts,” said Montesano.