The brouhaha that started out on Long Island with part-time private lawyers being listed as full-time public employees in schools and getting pension benefits, has now mushroomed into a full blown scandal. According to tomorrow’s New York Law Journal, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is predicting that “hundreds and hundreds” of attorneys will ultimately be implicated in his office’s investigation of government entities improperly enrolling non-employees in public pension funds.
And this is the scary part, while “there will be people beyond lawyers” found to be receiving improper public pension benefits, “the predominant class will be lawyers.”
The story broke February 15th with this story in Newsday after an investigation by auditors with the New York State Comptroller’s Office: Five districts falsely reported lawyer’s job status. At that time a part-time municipal attorney found to be on the employment rolls of five different school districts defended himself by saying it was “common practice.” It appears now that that may have been true, that it was common practice. But if everyone in your area runs a stop sign, it is no defense when you get busted to say that everyone does it.
Careers are about to go up in smoke. Many, many careers. This “PensionEsq.” scandal will be with us for a long, long time.
Scott Greenfield, author of Simple Justice (and criminal defense lawyer extraordinaire) has been providing extensive coverage to date:
- The Busiest Lawyer on Long Island (2/15/08)
- Let’s Not Forget Who’s Minding The Store (2/17/08)
- How To Explain Why the Lawyers Were So Wrong (4/4/08)
- Oversight needed on special-district lawyers (Greenfield op-ed in Newsday and open thread at his blog on it)
Updated with commentary/news on the scandal:
- “The Predominant Class Will Be Lawyers” (5/9/08; Greenfield):
The patchwork quilt of what I call “baby governments” is rife with corruption, but it’s mostly of the petty sort. A dime here, a dollar there, a harmless little violation of the open meetings law, a blow-off of the freedom of information law. Selective and vindictive resolution of problems or enforcement of law. That sort of stuff. The sort that allows the big fish in tiny little ponds to feel self-important and powerful, all on someone else’s dime.
- Pension Probe Will Snare ‘Hundreds’ of Attorneys, N.Y. Attorney General Predicts (5/9/08: Albany’s Insanity)
For those of you that continually come out and defend the inept governments of this state, for those of you that just love to personally attack people like us for calling it like we see it, just read, it is just like we have been saying for years, time to open your eyes, take off the blindfolds and go after this crap.
- Cuomo Sees Fraud in Some Lawyers’ Pensions (5/9/08; New York Times)
Over the years, Mr. Cuomo said, the benefits have become a standard and expected perk for the lawyers, who often have political ties to the officials handing out the benefit. The system has proliferated, Mr. Cuomo suggested, because of New York’s profusion of state, county and local governments.