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.