Attorney General Cuomo Expands "double Dipping" Investigation To Every School District In New York State
NEW YORK, NY (May 15, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he will hold a public hearing on employment arrangements at Long Island school districts as part of his statewide investigation into pension fraud in New York’s school districts, local governments, and special districts. The hearing will be held in conjunction with members of the New York State Senate and Assembly.
Cuomo also announced a broad expansion of his investigation into “double dipping” by seeking information from all 685 school districts in New York State regarding the hiring of retired individuals who are already receiving public pensions. Cuomo previously sought such information from all school districts on Long Island.
“New Yorkers need to know that their tax dollars are not being wasted on state benefits for those who do not deserve them,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “We are expanding our investigation to determine whether ‘double dippers’ engaged in any fraudulent activities and we are holding a public hearing to shine a light on questionable employment practices in our school districts. The fraud that this investigation has already uncovered is inexcusable, and it’s going to end now.”
Attorney General Cuomo is investigating the practice of school districts permitting employees to “double dip,” allowing them to earn both salaries and pensions simultaneously. The Attorney General’s office will now be examining whether this is a proper use of public funds, whether these practices and their implementation violate existing laws and regulations, and whether existing law needs to be clarified as to these practices.
The Office of the Attorney General is sending a letter to every school district in the State seeking information about these “double dipping” practices. The letter requests:
- The identity of all current employees who are receiving public pensions in addition to their salaries, as well as the amounts of their salaries and pensions;
- Whether districts specifically classified these employees in a manner intended to permit them to collect both their salaries and pensions simultaneously;
- Whether the districts can document a real need to hire retired individuals as opposed to otherwise qualified non-retired individuals;
- The cost to the public of paying both the salaries and the pensions of these employees; and
- Any and all communications, including applications and certifications, between the districts and any state agencies concerning the employment of the specified employees who were already receiving pensions.
On May 22, 2008, Attorney General Cuomo will preside over a public hearing where he will hear testimony related to his statewide investigation into pension fraud. The Attorney General will be joined at the hearing by New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Assemblymember Robert Sweeney, Senator Kenneth LaValle, and Assemblymember Earlene Hooper. These legislators were designated by the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly.
Attorney General Cuomo continued, “At the hearings, we will explore not only the current state of our investigation, but also potential legislative solutions that may save taxpayers millions of dollars going forward.”
New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said, “Taxpayers have the right to expect that every penny of their school taxes is spent in the classroom. This practice is an abuse of taxpayers and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and I are working together to develop comprehensive legislation that will ensure that this type of fraud never occurs again.”
New York State Assemblymember Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) said, “This appears to be an abuse of the public trust. The average Employee Retirement System member receives a pension of less than $15,000. The average pension in the Teachers’ Retirement System is $34,412. It’s galling that some of these local appointed officials ‘game’ the system. These public hearings are an important tool to bring attention to these practices. I commend Attorney General Cuomo for shedding light on this issue.”
New York State Assemblymember Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) said, “The costs of double dipping to New Yorkers cannot be understated. We are holding hearings to make clear that it is no longer OK to ignore this widespread problem. Attorney General Cuomo is on the front lines of this battle to root out fraud and see that state funds and benefits are properly spent.”
Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing investigation of pension fraud has expanded to include more than 4,000 local governments and special districts across New York State and all 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (“BOCES”). The investigation has already revealed that many lawyers had remained on school districts’ or BOCES’ payrolls for such extended periods of time, or were included on the payrolls of so many school districts or BOCES simultaneously, that they accumulated substantial credits in the New York State Employees’ Retirement System. Last week, Cuomo announced settlement agreements with a western New York law firm and a Capital Region attorney that ended their improper employment arrangements with school districts and various BOCES and rescinded all public benefits they had wrongfully received.
The Attorney General’s office urges individuals with knowledge of any questionable arrangements between any BOCES, local governments, or school districts and their outside professionals to contact the Public Integrity Bureau by telephone at 212-416-8090 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.