In 2011, Suffolk County passed a local law (Article I, Section 77-4) barring county elected officials from collecting two public-sector salaries. Now, however, County Executive Steve Bellone wants to change the law to make an exception for Monica Martinez, a newly elected county legislator who also is an assistant principal at the Brentwood School District’s East Middle School.
Ms. Martinez is the sister of the Babylon deputy town supervisor, who is close to Bellone, and she won a primary challenge against another Democrat who was not a loyal soldier. Local political considerations aside, the situation raises interesting questions about the nature of public employment and elective office.
Members of the Suffolk County Legislature earn $98,260 a year — nearly $20,000 more than the $79,500 base salary of state lawmakers. Among local legislative bodies in the Empire State, only New York City Council members are paid more. Ms. Martinez’s salary at Brentwood this year is reported at $117,000, so the allowance would boost her combined pay to over $215,000.
Just a year ago, Ms. Martinez was paid $111,013, according to the SeeThroughNY database, which is derived from school district reports to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. Back in 2008, she was paid just $79,237. It seems likely that she was still a teacher at the beginning of the period; in any event, a nearly 50 percent pay gain in six years isn’t bad.
One aspect of this situation not highlighted in the Newsday story is Ms. Martinez’ pension status. NYSTRS records indicate an original hire date of September 1, 2000, which would suggest she’s got 13 years of credit. That’s more than enough to be vested, but as any public employee could tell you, the magic number is 20 years, at which the pension multiplier becomes 2 percent; i.e., 2 percent of final average salary for each year worked between 20 and 30 years. So Ms. Martinez has an added incentive to want to stay in NYSTRS. Assuming she never previously worked in state or local government, she’s starting in the county as a Tier 6 employee, meaning she’d need 10 years to vest in the New York State and Local Retirement System.
Who knows–maybe a few decades from now, we’ll be reading about Ms. Martinez and her two public pensions.