STUMP » Articles » New York State Proposal 2: Forfeiture of Pension of Criminal Officials » 11 October 2017, 12:03

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

New York State Proposal 2: Forfeiture of Pension of Criminal Officials  

by

11 October 2017, 12:03

This upcoming election day, I, as a New York state resident, get to vote on a proposal that will allow complete or partial forfeiture of public pensions of criminal officials.

I think this one is an easy lift, as I’ve mentioned before:

Check out that last one for the lovely story: “NY PENSION OFFICIAL ALLEGEDLY TOOK BRIBES IN HOOKERS AND BLOW

The text of the proposal can be found here, but I want to address the PROs & CONs as put out in the League of Women Voters Guide.

Yes – For the Measure
Supporters of this proposal believe that it is necessary to further discourage elected officials from engaging in unethical behaviors.

No – Against the Measure
Opponents feel that pension forfeiture can unfairly hurt the families of those who have committed crimes while in office. The families of these public officials may rely on their spouse’s/parent’s pension.

I have a feeling most people do have sympathy for the families.

But.

You know, this is about being convicted of felonies, and very specific ones.

The proposed amendment to section 7 of Article 2 of the State Constitution would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s duties.

So it’s not just some random felony conviction — it’s a felony that relates to the abuse of their office/power. Just as thieves don’t get to keep their ill-gotten gains, even if that money was to go to their children, corrupt officials should not be allowed to keep sucking money off those suckered.

If they didn’t want the money to be yanked away, they shouldn’t have done the crime in the first place.

If the corrupt officials didn’t think of their own families (much less my own) when they did the crime, why should it be on me?

In case it wasn’t clear, I’m voting yes on this proposal.

This has nothing to do with pension solvency – this won’t save much of anything on the state pension. But there needs to be a proper reckoning for public officials. Be glad we didn’t go the Aztec route:

Aztecs demanded high standards from their officials; judges who took bribes and let criminals go free were normally killed.
…..
Because the Aztecs expected higher standards of behaviour from nobles and officials, the punishments were often more severe for high-ranking people than for commoners.

I think not getting any more money from the state is fitting.

COVERAGE OF THE PROPOSAL

Editorial from lohud.com: Want to yank pensions from corrupt pols? Vote ‘yes’ on Proposal 2

Here’s a way to rile New York taxpayers: Mention how their tax dollars are providing fat pensions to corrupt public officials. Yes, still.

The good news: Proposal 2 on the Nov. 7 ballot asks voters whether judges should be allowed to reduce or revoke the state pension of a public officer convicted of a felony related to his or her duties.

Voters’ answer should be, of course, yes. State legislators have agreed to the change twice, in two separate sessions, as required by state law, which is why the constitutional amendment change now goes to the voters.
…..
Some are actually against Proposal 2. They say the idea of pension clawbacks sets a bad precedent — government officials, they say, earned that as part of compensation for their job. But if you are using that position to stuff your own pockets, then you aren’t doing the job in the first place.

Pension forfeiture rules are already in place for a small portion of public servants, thanks to the 2011 Public Integrity Reform Act that passed the Legislature after that year’s outbreak of the kind of corruption plague that so often strikes Albany. Because pensions are constitutionally protected, that law only applies to officials who entered an elected or appointed position after November 2011, the date it was enacted.

This year’s stronger proposal also comes courtesy of another Albany corruption outbreak. Lawmakers passed the first bill seeking the constitutional change in 2015, after corruption charges hit two of the three most powerful men in Albany.

Speaking of those plague carriers, former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ pension is worth more than $95,000 a year; former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gets more than $79,000 annually for his pension. While both were convicted of abusing their posts, those convictions were recently overturned because of technical changes in the law. Few would take the bet that certain corruption charges won’t stick.
…..
While lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have decried the culture of corruption year after year, calls for strong ethics reform often fade away as legislative sessions progress. That happened again in the 2017 session. Calls for reforms were loud and strong in January, on the heels of another scandal, this time visiting an indictment upon Cuomo’s circle, including aide and “brother” Joseph Percoco.

By April, Cuomo was saying that lawmakers had no appetite for change. As Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Mount Pleasant, told our Albany bureau: “The governor pressed for ethics reform when the spotlight was on the Legislature, but is not as interested in ethics reform when the spotlight is on the executive branch.”

Luckily, the Legislature passed those two consecutive bills for an amendment vote — under the watchful eyes of good government groups and the people.

Now, Proposal 2 is on the November ballot. As Buchwald said, it offers “voters an opportunity to take an important step forward in restoring public trust in our state government.”

It’s an important step, but so much more needs to be done to Albany — the easier way is for it to be done in Albany, but as noted above, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Ballot measure would strip pensions from corrupt lawmakers

For years, New York lawmakers convicted of abusing their power and sent off to prison had at least one thing to look forward to: a generous state pension.

That practice could come to an end in November when voters will be asked whether to change the state constitution to authorize judges to strip pensions from corrupt politicians.

Top lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo have argued the change will act as a powerful deterrent in a state where 30 state lawmakers have left office since 2000 because of criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct.

Some good-government advocates question whether the loss of a pension will be enough to keep errant lawmakers honest. But in the face of decades of legislative inaction on ethics, even the critics say something is better than nothing.

Uh, yeah.

One of the other proposals is about having a state constitutional convention, which I’m voting no on. There’s a bunch of hyperventilating going on about “they’ll amend the state constitution to take away our pensions!”, but I doubt this particular proposal is going to pass.

When I found out that it’s a requirement that they ask the populace at large every twenty years whether we want a state constitutional convention, I had no problem with saying “no”. It would be just an extra expense for a bunch of politicians to noodle around on the public dime, and allows them to get up to mischief. They can’t actually amend the constitution by fiat, and as proposal 2 shows, if they want to amend the constitution, there’s already a process in place. So no on that one.

CRIMINAL OFFICIALS STORIES

So, given that the last time I wrote on this topic was in December, I figure I may as well dump in the stories I have had for 2017 so far. Mind you, some of these are in states that already allow for pension forfeiture. To make it simple, so I don’t have to see if the news links still work, I will be linking to Actuarial Outpost posts on the stories.

So here are all the criminal officials & pensions stories I’ve caught in 2017 so far (not in chrono order):

Some of these overlap (and I also snuck in a story from Australia), and some of these are about the procedures in other states that already exist to deal with the situation. As well, as noted in the NY stories, there is already such a law in place for new officials after 2011, but it would be nice to plug the hole.


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