At least 856 New York state and local government employees under age 65 have received special permission to collect both public pensions and full government paychecks, according to data posted today on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website.
Waivers issued under Section 211 of the state Retirement and Social Security Law allow public-sector retirees under 65 to return to work—or remain in jobs from which they have just “retired”—and exceed the $30,000 limit on earnings from public employment while collecting pension benefits.
Retirees who are 65 or older are exempt from the waiver requirement and can collect full salaries and full pension benefits. Applications for waivers, including those that have been rejected, can be viewed here.
As of July 1, 2017, the latest data show, 856 public employees had received such waivers, which is down slightly from the 870 waivers effective January 1, 2017. 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 publicly available only thanks to efforts by the Empire Center to obtain and process them.
Among the waivers in effect on July 1:
- 387 were approved for New York City, with 160 going to District Attorney offices;
- 241 were approved for local governments, with the most going to Nassau County (34), Suffolk County (23) and Monroe County (15);
- 174 were approved for New York State agencies, including 96 at the Law Department and 24 at SUNY; and
- 41 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, but it is unclear that these efforts are being carried out.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.