NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted in December of federal corruption charges, will receive a nearly six-figure yearly state pension.
Skelos and his son were found guilty of eight counts of bribery, extortion and conspiracy.
The once-powerful Republican from Long Island was accused of using his office to extort about $300,000 in salary and other benefits for his son, Adam. Prosecutors also alleged Skelos accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers in exchange for political favors.
It was revealed Wednesday that Skelos will receive $95,831 a year in his state pension.
“For a convicted felon who violated the public trust to be receiving a pension financed by the taxpayers of $95,000 a year from now until the day that he dies is just a tragic indictment of how bad our state government is in dealing with those who abuse the public trust,” Citizen’s Union Executive Director Dick Dadey told WCBS 880.
Dadey said corrupt lawmakers helped make pensions laws and Albany needs to make legislative changes to address the problem.
“They wrote the laws to protect themselves,” Dadey said. “They carved out their protection.”
Skelos, along with former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of unrelated corruption charges, were two of the “three men in a room” when an ethics reform package was approved in 2011, Dadey said.
It decided lawmakers elected after the bill was passed would be subject to having their pension forfeited if they were convicted of corruption, said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.
“It requires a constitutional amendment to include in elected officials who were already in office,” Lerner said, adding “Certainly there was nothing that stopped the legislature from amending the constitution back then and certainly there’s nothing to stop them from amending the constitution now.”
Last year about a dozen former elected officials convicted of corruption were collecting a pension totaling more than $600,000, Newsday reported.
Silver is getting $79,222.
“It’s just not fair to the average working person,” one said.
“I think if you are a criminal you should lose your pension, you don’t deserve it,” another added.
A grassroots movement started by Long Island father James Coll has created an online petition to strip the Skelos name from a park, root out corruption in Albany, and revoke pensions to criminals.
“It seems like the governor is a Johnny come lately when it comes to looking for reforms up in Albany. Leadership would drive public opinion, it wouldn’t just follow it,” Coll said.
No one answered the door at the Skelos home, but reforms to the current law may be near a resolution.
“We even have members of the senate and assembly who finally get the picture,” Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said, “Nothing good comes easy in democracy.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing legislation to strip pensions from any elected official convicted of official misconduct.
Cuomo was at a symposium on Long Island on Thursday and echoed concerns from his constituents that corrupt officials were collecting pensions.
“They should be, they should be. I’m upset, it’s absurd,” he told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Skelos and his son are scheduled to be sentenced on March 3.
If pension reform can’t be brokered in Albany, many Long Islanders said they won’t vote to re-elect their legislators in November.
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