ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - Three more settlements have been reached in New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation into attorneys ripping off the state's public employees retirement system.
Cuomo, who thinks some lawyers who perform work for school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) are illegally receiving retirement benefits provided by taxpayer money, settled with two law firms -- Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett and Reitz P.C. and Aiello and Cannick -- and Long Island attorney Gilbert Henoch.
The three will pay a total of $235,000 back to the State.
"Systemic abuse in the public pension and benefits systems has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars," Cuomo said. "We will continue to examine school districts and BOCES throughout the state to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted by providing pensions to lawyers who are not state employees or other unwarranted perks and benefits."
Since 1994, 22 of the Ferrara firm's employees have been listed as employees of the Madison Oneida BOCES, with three of them receiving state pension credits, Cuomo said.
Two lawyers from the Aiello firm have been listed as employees of the Mount Vernon City School District since 1997, Cuomo said, while Henock was listed as an employee at the Hempstead Union Free School District and at the East Meadow Union Free School District.
The first-term Democrat is being sued by a group of attorneys who claim Cuomo's actions are politically motivated.
Albany firms Roemer, Wallens & Mineaux and DeGraff, Foy & Kunz filed the action and have organized a website -- Save New York State Retirement Membership Benefits.
"We are here to save the membership benefits that active members of the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System and current retirees are entitled," the site says. "Annually salaried part-time public employees are being unfairly harassed and illegally deprived of their rightful benefits."
Cuomo had secured two other settlements since his investigation began in February. He claims some attorneys were put on the payrolls of some school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and received the benefits. He has subpoenaed every state BOCES, as well as 70 upstate attorneys and 20 from the Long Island area.
"It may have been common practice for decades but it ends now, and I am working with leaders in the Senate and Assembly to pass legislation shutting down the abuses for good," Cuomo said.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org