At Least 870 State and Local Employees Double-Dipping for Public Pensions

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At least 870 New York state and local government employees have received special permission to collect both public pensions and government paychecks, according to data posted today on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website.

The waivers, issued under Section 211 of the state Retirement and Social Security Law, allow public-sector retirees to return to work and exceed the $30,000 limit on earnings from public employers while receiving full pension benefits. Retirees who are age 65 or older are exempt from the waiver requirement. Applications for waivers, including those that have been rejected, can be viewed here.

As of January 1, 2017, the latest data show, 870 public employees had received such waivers, which is up slightly from the 849 waivers effective July 1, 2016. Waivers are often granted retroactively, concealing the number in force at any given time. Agencies are not required to proactively disclose the waivers, which are only available to the public thanks to efforts by the Empire Center to obtain and process them.

Among the waivers in effect on January 1:

  • 380 were approved for New York City, with 145 going to District Attorney offices;
  • 218 were approved for local governments, with the most going to Nassau County (35), Suffolk County (22) and Orange County (15);
  • 177 were approved for New York State agencies, including 88 at the Law Department and 33 at SUNY; and
  • 83 were for school districts outside New York City.

A 2014 analysis of active waivers by the Empire Center found more than half were being used to employ retired law enforcement officers in investigative positions, such as District Attorney offices. Public employers are required by law to first conduct “extensive recruitment efforts” to find a qualified non-retired person before a waiver is granted; however, it is unclear that these efforts are being carried out.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and do business.