Assemblyman Michael A. Montesano (R,I,C-Glen Head) applauds Comptroller DiNapoli’s program bill that would strip pension benefits from public officials convicted of a felony related to the unlawful use of their position. Less than a month ago, Assemblyman Montesano sent a letter to the comptroller soliciting his support in efforts to end this miscarriage of justice. Montesano has submitted similar legislation for both the current and previous legislative sessions.
“For far too long, public officials who have misused their positions have lived off the very public they betrayed,” said Montesano. “It is welcome news that a statewide official has come on board with the Assembly Minority’s initiative to end this embarrassing and costly problem. I am hopeful that the comptroller’s program bill gives the issue the attention it deserves, so we can push forward and vote on this critical legislation.”
If the measure passes the Legislature, it will be the first pension reform legislation of its kind in New York state to target convicted felons. Considering the number of public officials convicted of felonies related to their position and the at-risk nature of the pension fund, this legislation seems more necessary than ever. Past bills would have required a constitutional amendment to fully enact provisions to deny pension benefits. The comptroller’s program bill includes terms to strip future officials of their benefits, but also includes a penalty up to twice the amount a public official benefited from the commission of a crime.
“This legislation is important because it will act as a deterrent, close a fiscal and legal loophole, and help restore the public’s trust in its officials,” said Montesano. “The trust of the public is the most important element of a well-functioning democratic government. Without it, government laws lack legitimacy, the words of officials lack sincerity, and consequentially, government lacks purpose. It is for this reason that I believe passing this bill is the only responsible course of action. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for joining me in efforts to end the egregious abuse of the public’s trust and hard-earned money. With the support of my colleagues in the Assembly and the comptroller, we can send a clear message that it no longer pays to violate the public’s trust.”