The New York State Senate spent $332,419 over a six-month period on offices vacated by two senators who had resigned, according to data posted today on SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website.

The data for April 1 through Sept. 30, 2014 indicate that 16 paid staffers remained on the former payrolls of Senators Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Eric Adams (D-Queens), who left office on December 31, 2013. The highest paid holdover staffer in either Senate office was Jesse Hamilton, who was paid $48,003 during the 6-month period as “counsel” in Adams’ former district. Hamilton was himself a candidate for the seat, to which he was elected in November.

The latest update to SeeThroughNY’s unique, searchable database of legislative expenditures also shows:

  • Over $24,247 in spending on “clothing,” “supplies” and other costs associated with an exhibit at the 2014 state fair.
  • Millions in expenditures on communications, ranging from $4.34 million for bulk and first-class postage to $41 for “pager lease(s)”.
  • $63,488 in legal fees for the firm representing Senators Dean Skelos and Michael Nozzolio in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s 2012 redistricting legislation. The lawsuit reportedly ended in July 2014, with the federal court handing down a summary judgement siding with legislators and the Governor.

The total spending by each senator’s office can be viewed here.

“Taxpayers have a right to see how their money is being spent everywhere in government, and that includes the legislature,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “These reports are an important part of government accountability, and should be released on a monthly basis, not semi-annually.”

Hoefer noted that both the Senate and Assembly, which has not yet released its April-September 2014 data, only compile expenses for six-months chunks of time — and that the data typically are not publicly available for almost six months after those periods end. In addition, by organizing the data into six-month periods that correspond to state fiscal years, which run from April 1 to March 31, the Legislature has obscured expense totals for its two-year sessions, which correspond to calendar years.

Noting that Governor Cuomo’s ethics reform deal with Assembly Democrats reportedly includes public disclosure of expense reimbursements, Hoefer said: “Legislative leaders should also more frequently release and update their expense data, preferably on a monthly basis.”

SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website, allows users to examine payroll and pension records, as well as school district contracts and legislative expenditures.

This press release is part of the Empire Center’s participation in Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to promote access to public information.

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