At least 849 public employees have received special permission to collect government paychecks while also collecting public pensions, 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 collecting public pensions. 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 July 1, 2016, the latest data show, 849 public employees had received such waivers, which was down slightly from the 861 waivers effective July 1, 2015. 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 July 1:

  • 372 were approved for New York City, with 137 going to District Attorney offices;
  • 249 were approved for local governments, with the most going to Nassau County (34), Suffolk County (23) and Orange County (15);
  • 185 were approved for New York State agencies, including 88 at the Law Department and 32 at SUNY; and
  • 43 were approved 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.

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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