“This legislation sends a message to anyone who tries to game the retirement system: if you don’t play by the rules, we will find you and make you pay,” said DiNapoli. “Government agencies should be enabled to work together to reduce waste, fraud and abuse. This legislation will do just that. We have half the puzzle and Tax and Finance has the other half. Together, we’ll solve this problem and stop this kind of abuse.”
Currently, the Retirement and Social Security Law (RSSL) places limits on the amount that may be earned by a retiree who returns to public employment without it affecting his or her pension payments. Most retirees are covered by Section 212 of the RSSL, which allows retirees under age 65 to earn up to $30,000 per calendar year without any pension penalty.
The Retirement System annually compares information for state employees with the State Comptroller’s Office Division of Payroll to identify retirees who have obtained employment with the state. In addition, a law passed in 2008 requires school districts and BOCES to annually report all public retirees, including independent contractors and consultants, on their payrolls during the previous calendar year. If retirees are found to have exceeded the wage earnings limitations, the Retirement System suspends and recoups excess pension payments.
However, there currently isn’t a mechanism for a similar comparison for retirees employed by the thousands of local public employers in the state. DiNapoli’s legislation would amend Section 171-a of the Tax Law to grant the Comptroller’s Office access to Tax and Finance’s wage reporting system to match the Retirement System’s records with information reported by local governments to Tax and Finance. This match would allow the Comptroller’s Office to identify retirees improperly collecting a state pension and a local government salary.
In February, Comptroller DiNapoli and Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara announced that former Rome police officer Thomas C. Hubal had been convicted of third-degree larceny for earning more than his pension legal limit over a nine-year period. Hubal must repay more than $88,000 and serve six-months incarceration for defrauding the system. If this legislation had been in effect, Mr. Hubal would have been caught in the first year that his salary exceeded his pension limitation.
Under current law, it is the responsibility of retirees to report any post-retirement income to the Retirement System. Each year, all retirees are mailed a Report of Post-Retirement Employment Form, which must be filled out and returned to the State Comptroller’s Office if the retiree received any earnings from public employment.