Former New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos filed for his state pension less than two weeks after he was convicted of public corruption charges.
Mr. Skelos, a 67-year-old Nassau County Republican, submitted paperwork for his pension on Dec. 22, according to the state comptroller’s office. The office declined to estimate how much the annual payments would be. His retirement is scheduled to begin on Jan. 2, the office said.
A federal jury in Manhattan on Dec. 11 found Mr. Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, guilty of eight criminal counts—including conspiracy, bribery and extortion—in what prosecutors described as a scheme to leverage the former lawmaker’s political power for his son’s financial benefit.
The conviction triggered Mr. Skelos’s automatic expulsion from the Legislature. Mr. Skelos’s attorney has said he plans to appeal the verdict.
The Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, estimated that Mr. Skelos’s annual pension payment would be up to $95,590. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who was also convicted of public corruption charges, is expected to receive about the same amount, according to the Empire Center.
Mr. Silver filed for his pension on Dec. 1, one day after his conviction. He also said he plans to appeal the verdict.
The state constitution protects most state employees from having to forfeit their pensions even if they are convicted of crimes. The Legislature passed a law in 2011 that would reduce or revoke the pensions of public employees convicted of certain crimes, but it only applies to workers who entered the state retirement system after that law went into effect.
“We have a constitution that is protecting corrupt officials when it should be protecting the citizens of New York,” said Doug Kellogg, a spokesman for Reclaim New York, a group that advocates for more government accountability. “That is something we shouldn’t be accepting.”
Following Mr. Silver’s arrest last January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, urged the Legislature to pass a law that would strip the pensions of public officials convicted of corruption. The Senate approved the measure, which would require an amendment to the state constitution, but it stalled in the Assembly.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose Manhattan office prosecuted Messrs. Skelos and Silver, has signaled that his office would go after the pensions of convicted public officialsif the government can’t recover assets that prosecutors allege came from criminal conduct.
A Quinnipiac University poll in March found that 76% of voters believe state elected officials who are convicted of a felony should lose their pensions.
Mr. Skelos is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3. The top charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
© 2015 Wall Street Journal
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