State Comptroller DiNapoli and Orange County District Attorney Hoovler Announce Guilty Plea in Bethel Tax Collector Pension Fraud Case

Link:https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/11/state-comptroller-dinapoli-and-orange-county-district-attorney-hoovler-announce-guilty-plea-bethel

Excerpt:

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler today announced that former Town of Bethel Tax Collector Debra Gabriel, of Bethel, pleaded guilty before Judge Peter Feinberg in the Town of Rockland Justice Court to Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree, in connection with a scheme to defraud the New York State and Local Retirement System. Gabriel, 62, had resigned her public office and retired in August 2020.

At the time that she pleaded guilty, Gabriel admitted having submitted a false “Record of Activity” with the Town of Bethel for filing with the State Comptroller. Records of Activity are documents in which certain appointed or elected officials must record a daily detail of their hours worked and duties and certify their accuracy. The information is used to calculate their service time for retirement benefits.

An investigation of Gabriel’s Records of Activity conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Office and the New York State Police revealed that from April 1, 2009 to Aug. 31, 2019, she falsely claimed credit for full-time work for the Town of Bethel when her actual hours were far less. For example, in 2018 and 2019, she had a full-time job with a private healthcare company, while claiming to also have worked full-time as a Tax Collector for Bethel. Her false claims increased her service credit toward retirement by more than seven years, according to Comptroller DiNapoli. Gabriel turned over a certified check in the amount of $6,377.46 to prosecutors from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office as restitution to the State of New York for the amount of pension benefits that she was overpaid.

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 5 Nov 2021

Publication Site: NY Office of the Comptroller

New York State Common Retirement Still Holds Boeing Stock, Despite Lawsuit

Link:https://www.ai-cio.com/news/new-york-state-common-retirement-still-holds-boeing-stock-despite-lawsuit/

Excerpt:

The New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado (FPPA) agreed to a $237.5 million settlement with Boeing’s board after they sued the aerospace company’s board for failing to protect against safety risks related to its 737 Max jets. The money will be paid by the board director’s insurance companies to Boeing itself.

….

The exact reasons why NYS Common chose to hold the stock after suing the company are unknown, as the fund did not respond to a request for comment. However, it’s possible that the pension maintained its shares in order to play a role in restructuring Boeing. It’s taken that approach in the past with companies such as ExxonMobil. In part of the recent settlement between NYS Common and Boeing, the company has agreed to implement new safety measures, including an ombudsman program for employees.

Author(s): Anna Gordon

Publication Date: 9 Nov 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

COVID-19 Relief Program Tracker (NY)

Link:https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/covid-relief-program-tracker

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The Office of the State Comptroller has created this dashboard to track federal relief funds received during the pandemic and eight programs that offer targeted assistance to New Yorkers most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The tracker explains when each funding stream or program was authorized, how it is designed and how much has been received and spent to date. The data will be updated monthly and will be expanded over time as more information becomes available. We hope the information presented here can be used to help New Yorkers understand how federal aid is used and to inform future conversations about budget investments.

Select a relief program to view its funding and spending, or download this month’s data for all programs.

Author(s):Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: accessed 17 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Office of the Comptroller of the State of New York

State comptroller launches COVID-19 relief fund tracker

Link:https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/DiNapoli-launches-tracker-of-COVID-19-relief-funds-16533107.php?IPID=Times-Union-HP-CP-Latest-News

Excerpt:

The state has received $21 billion in federal pandemic relief money and has spent $6.1 billion since the end of September, according to a new online tracker released by the state comptroller’s office.

Despite less than a third of the money being spent to date, much of the federal cash has a general spending plan ascribed to it. The state has received just over half of its expected federal aid, which is to total $39.8 billion, according to the tracker. 

“Thankfully New York is getting billions of dollars of federal funding that really has been a lifeline,” state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli told the Times Union. “When you’re seeing an infusion of funding at that magnitude, it is important to follow the money and make sure it is spent as intended.”

Author(s): Joshua Solomon

Publication Date: 14 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Times Union

Advocates want Hochul to address shuttered St. Clare’s Hospital pension crisis

Excerpt:

Advocates for restoring pension payments to retirees of shuttered Catholic healthcare facilities, including St. Clare’s Hospital, have launched another effort, now that the state is led by a new governor.

In a bipartisan move, state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Mary Hartshorne, chairwoman of the St. Clare’s Pensioners Recovery Alliance, wrote to Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday, asking for her consideration on the matter.

The legislators’ letter said the pensions of more than 1,100 New Yorkers “evaporated in the snap of a finger, through no fault of their own.” This is no way to treat healthcare workers, they said.

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Since federal law permits a religious exemption, the St. Clare’s pension fund has no benefit guarantee insurance because federal law permits a religious exemption, the lawmakers’ letter to the governor reads.

For reasons not yet fully identified, the lawmakers said, the state did not provide ample funding to cover the St. Clare’s pension fund’s costs.

Author(s): Brian Lee

Publication Date: 19 Sept 2021

Publication Site: The Daily Gazette

DiNapoli bolsters pension fund stability—and cuts tax-funded costs

Excerpt:

DiNapoli announced today that he’s approved a recommendation by the State Retirement System Actuary to reduce, from 6.8 percent to 5.9 percent, the assumed rate of return (RoR) on investments by the $268 billion Common Retirement Fund, which underwrites the New York State and Local Employee Retirement System (NYSLERS) and Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), of which the comptroller is the sole trustee.

To be sure, even at 5.9 percent, the RoR that the pension fund literally counts on to pay constitutionally guaranteed benefits will remain considerably higher than the yields from commensurate low-risk U.S. Treasury or high-quality corporate bonds, which currently range from 2.3 percent to 3.3 percent. Nonetheless, in isolation, cutting the RoR assumption is an unequivocally good and prudent thing for the comptroller to do.

Assuming lower earnings also tends to result in higher required contributions by employers—which is why politically sensitive public pension fund administrators across the country have tended to set their RoRs at much higher levels than those required for private corporate plans. To guard against volatility in investment returns, which has been especially pronounced over the past 25 years, DiNapoli and other pension fund administrators also resort to “asset smoothing” — i.e., counting average market returns over several years—as a basis for estimating the assets available to pay retirement benefits. In New York’s case, the smoothing period is five years.

Author(s): E.J. McMahon

Publication Date: 25 August 2021

Publication Site: Empire Center for Public Policy

New NY governor adds 12,000 deaths to publicized COVID tally

Link: https://apnews.com/article/andrew-cuomo-health-coronavirus-pandemic-7312b49695e726eda8d59848e82271c5

Excerpt:

Delivering another blow to what’s left of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, New York’s new governor acknowledged on her first day in office that the state has had nearly 12,000 more deaths from COVID-19 than Cuomo told the public.

“The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening. And that’s whether it’s good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that’s how we restore confidence,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on NPR.

In its first daily update on the outbreak Tuesday evening, Hochul’s office reported that nearly 55,400 people have died of the coronavirus in New York based on death certificate data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s up from about 43,400 that Cuomo reported to the public as of Monday, his last day in office. The Democrat who was once widely acclaimed for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak resigned in the face of an impeachment drive after being accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women, allegations he disputed.

The higher number is not entirely new. Federal health officials and some academic institutions tracking COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been using the higher tally for many months because of known gaps in the data Cuomo had been choosing to publicize.

Author(s): MARINA VILLENEUVE

Publication Date: 25 August 2021

Publication Site: AP News

DiNapoli: Chatham Police Chief Sentenced for Pension Double-Dipping

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/07/dinapoli-chatham-police-chief-sentenced-pension-double-dipping

Excerpt:

Former Village of Chatham Chief of Police Peter Volkmann was sentenced to pay $92,829 in restitution and perform 200 hours of community service today for defrauding the New York State pension system by concealing his unlawful post-retirement public income and for stealing from the village through sham requests for reimbursement. His fraud was discovered during a joint investigation by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, and the New York State Police.

…..

Volkmann pleaded guilty in February to grand larceny in the fourth degree for circumventing New York state’s post-retirement income restrictions and cheating the New York State and Local Retirement System out of $74,222. Volkmann hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through a private business, PF Volkmann & Associates. He also pled to official misconduct, a misdemeanor, for stealing $18,607 from the Village of Chatham by falsifying mileage vouchers and other reimbursements to increase his income. 

Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, served as a Chief of Police for the town of Stockport until 2016. He was also the Chief of Police for the Village of Chatham since the fall of 2013 and he served as unpaid Commissioner of the Hudson Police Department from January 2020, until this investigation became public.

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 19 July 2021

Publication Site: NY State Comptroller

DiNapoli: Local Sales Taxes Jump 49.2 Percent in Second Quarter

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/07/dinapoli-local-sales-taxes-jump-49-point-2-percent-second-quarter

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Sales tax revenue for local governments in New York state rose by 49.2% in the second quarter (April to June 2021) compared to the same period last year, a dramatic increase from last year’s weak collections during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Sales tax collections during this period grew by just over $1.6 billion and even surpassed collections reported during the second quarter of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

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The size of the increase largely reflects extremely weak collections in the April to June period of 2020. However, even compared to pre-pandemic collections for the same period in 2019, statewide collections in 2021 were up 8.7% or $396 million. Every region outside of New York City experienced two-year growth over 18%. The Mid-Hudson and North Country regions both reported increases of more than 29%.

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 23 July 2021

Publication Site: NY State Comptroller

Report Reveals Albany’s Balanced Budget a Gimmick

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The dramatic reversal that shrank the state’s four-year budget gap from $38.7 billion in January to the current $3.4 billion occurred, incredibly, despite the Governor and legislature adopting a budget that increases state spending significantly in education and other areas. What turned the tide was a massive injection of federal aid—including $12.7 billion in no-strings federal aid awarded to the state in March under the American Rescue Plan—along with tax collections that defied earlier projections of vast, pandemic-induced revenue loss, and new tax hikes inflicted on high earners estimated to yield $2.75 billion in new revenue this year alone. As a result, the enacted budget financial plan the Governor’s budget office issued last month shows a balanced budget for this fiscal year and next. Even the red ink that starts accumulating in 2024 and 2025 looks manageable.

But looks are deceiving here. Extending the budget window—as does a chart on page nine of the Comptroller’s report, shown below—reveals large, yawning budget gaps growing from nearly $8 billion in 2026 to nearly $20 billion by the end of the decade. The dual expiration of American Rescue Plan funds in 2026 and a temporary hike in the PIT in 2027 sends the budget deep into the red.

Author(s): Peter Warren

Publication Date: 28 June 2021

Publication Site: Empire Center for Public Policy

The New York City Unions Whose Backdoor Deal Sold Out Retirees, Helped Insurance Industry

Link: https://www.newsweek.com/new-york-city-unions-whose-backdoor-deal-sold-out-retirees-helped-insurance-industry-1604661

Excerpt:

In recent years, leadership of some of the nation’s largest unions have publicly opposed single-payer health care proposals, angering their rank-and-file and forcing Democratic politicians who back single-payer to take on a key constituency.

In New York City, for example, the umbrella organization for the city’s public sector unions—the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC)—recently helped the health insurance industry block a statewide single-payer bill, on the grounds that their members wanted to keep the health care benefits for which they had sacrificed wage increases.

But it turns out that the MLC, which bargains for health care benefits for city unions, was also engaging in backdoor negotiations with the city, resulting in a proposal to switch nearly a quarter-million people from Medicare to privately administered Medicare Advantage plans.

…..

Following the 2018 cost-cutting agreement, union leaders and officials came up with eight proposals to meet the cost-cutting requirements, including switching to a statewide single-payer system or setting up a self-insurance system.

A January 2021 study by The New School found that the city could save about $1.6 billion per year if it adopted a self-insurance program, as most major cities and large companies have done. That would involve setting up a health insurance plan just for the city’s employees and paying for claims directly, rather than paying premiums to a health insurance company which tends to be more expensive because insurance company profit margins are so large.

But since the negotiations between the MLC and Office of Labor Relations were held behind closed doors, retirees don’t know whether this option was ever considered.

Author(s): JULIA ROCK, THE DAILY POSTER

Publication Date: 28 June 2021

Publication Site: Newsweek

Database: New York’s pension system hits record returns. Here’s who is getting the most

Link: https://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/politics/2021/06/01/database-nys-pension-system-gets-record-returns-who-earned-most/5254524001/

Excerpt:

A rebound in the financial markets after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled record growth in the state’s pension fund for government workers.

The pension fund for 1.1 million employees and retirees grew a whopping 33.6% for the fiscal year that ended March 31, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Wednesday.

The return on investments increased the fund’s value to nearly $255 billion, making it one of the largest public pension funds in the nation.

….

The fund’s long-term expected rate of return is 6.8%.

The health of the fund is critical to its 673,000 active workers and 447,000 retirees, and it comes as more public sector employees are retiring, a review of state records showed.

Author(s): Joseph Spector, Sean Lahman

Publication Date: 1 June 2021

Publication Site: Poughkeepsie Journal