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Violate the Public Trust, Lose Your Public Pension

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli says it's time to restore public trust and proposes a bill that strips the pension from any public official convicted of a job-related felony.

This column was written by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Public officials have been entrusted with a responsibility to serve the public good with integrity, ethics and the highest standards.

Unfortunately, in the past few years, far too many elected officials New York have violated that trust.  New Yorker’s confidence in their elected leaders has been battered and bruised.

It is time to restore trust and rebuild confidence. That’s why I’m proposing a bill that strips the pension from any public official convicted of a job-related  felony. 

My bill also imposes a penalty up to twice the amount a public official benefitted from the commission of a crime committed in the  course of his or her public duty.

The premise behind the legislation is simple. Public officials should serve New Yorkers - not themselves.  Anyone convicted of a felony  related to their official duties should no longer be entitled to receive  a tax-payer funded pension. The penalties in my legislation apply to not only state and local elected officials, but also to officers and appointees, directors and members of public authorities and public benefit corporations. The monetary penalty and enhanced sentencing would be in addition to any other sanctions imposed by existing law.

The state constitution prohibits any diminishment of retirement benefits for current members of the retirement system, so the forfeiture  provisions will only apply to anyone taking office after the  legislation’s enactment. 

But the new felony provisions, which will be a  strong deterrent against criminal behavior, would apply to current and  future public officials and public servants. 

No one who violates the public trust should be allowed to receive a taxpayer-funded pension. And the tough sanctions I'm pushing will remind every public official that, criminal behavior will not be tolerated. New Yorkers deserve honest, open, ethical government.  They deserve leaders who protect the public trust.  And when that trust is violated, New Yorkers don’t deserve to be stuck with the bill for a felon’s pension.

Publius May 08, 2012 at 04:02 PM
It looks good, in theory. But getting a state agency to investigate a breach of the public trust by upstate small town officials is a waste of time. Our town supervisor, along with the members of the board of assessment & review reduced the property assessments for themselves, the supervisor, the deputy supervisor, one councilman, and a bunch of their friends, to below where they had been for years. It was just after a revaluation.....that nearly doubled everyone elses. And all we get from the AGs office is, It's a loophole, there's nothing we can do. Time to leave NY in droves and let the crooks have it.

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