January 2, 2008

Gazette Nails It with O'Connor Editorial

Major kudos for the Niagara Gazette for getting it right with its editorial on Sean O'Connor's game to bilk taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in free lifetime health care.

What's surprising is that Sean has always been known as a pretty reasonable guy, so all of this scheming seemed out of character. But sources have told us that O'Connor is willing to take these lumps to his reputation because he will hit a milestone in service to the state (30 years) some time next year that will enhance his retirement payout greatly. He doesn't care about the bad press because he simply won't seek re-election. We're checking into that rumor. If it's true, then O'Connor has truly disgraced his record of public service.

Niagara Gazette editorial:
OUR VIEW: O’Connor resignation breaks public trust

Sean O’Connor, the veteran Democratic Niagara County lawmaker from Niagara Falls, has resigned.

But he won’t stay inactive for long. We learned late Friday that he plans to return to the Legislature next week for his 21st year in office.

O’Connor announced abruptly last week that he was resigning from the Legislature — allowing him to preserve his lifetime paid health insurance benefits. The tactical maneuver allows him to be eligible for lifetime health insurance and retain his seat in the Legislature.

To be certain, there are political motivations surrounding this situation. Nearly a decade ago, the Legislature voted to restrict full health benefits to those with 20 or more years of service. More recently, under Republicans, it opted to force senior legislators taking office in 2008 to pay 50 percent of their premiums if they were sworn in Jan. 1. By resigning when he did, O’Connor becomes immediately eligible for free coverage, while retaining his ability to return to office next year.

He charged in a statement that the tactic by Republicans to threaten his free health insurance was aimed at getting him to retire, increasing their chances of gaining a seat and decreasing the number of minority Democratic lawmakers.

The Legislature’s new Majority Leader Jason Murgia shot back that several senior Republicans will likely face the same decision O’Connor did this election and that the move wasn’t based on partisanship but trimming county expenses.

We applauded O’Connor for deciding to run despite the personal cost. By resigning to keep the benefits then taking the oath of office, he will have misled voters in his district. He has, in effect, gotten his cake and eaten it too — then went to the doctor to have his cholesterol checked.

And by doing so, he is guilty of playing the same games he’s accusing Republicans of undertaking.

There’s a bottom line here: Whether the circumstances are fair or not, by deciding to run again, Sean O’Connor made a promise to his district and to Niagara County taxpayers that personal wealth was less important than public service. To renege on that now sends yet another message to voters that legislators are more concerned with their personal status than honoring a public trust.

15 comments:

Jake B said...

O'Connor slid into the seat on his father's name and his been a zero since he started 20 years ago. Hell, I'll pay the 500k just to rid the county of this clown.

Anonymous said...

And he had the nerve to say that his friends and family influenced his decision to "return". What a crock. He was influenced by the almighty buck and nothing else. Disgusting. So much for his oath to "serve the people".

fed up in da falls said...

Call me a sucker. I really thought he would either retire or stay and pay 50 percent of his coverage per the resolution. I can't believe he is such a greedy pig.

Anonymous said...

More than half of the majority caucus is on the public teat ... and you're complaining about Sean O'Connor. How predictable.

Anonymous said...

I am so upset I can't see straight. Were the people served by his resignation? Are they served by his fancy footwork around the law?

And where are his fellow legislators? Do the members of his party support this? If not, then where is the condemnation? Tell us how you feel!

Peggy A. said...

It's unbelievable that O'connor thought he could get away with his scheme and no one would notice. He also has the worst attendance of any Niagara County legislator. I'm sure it's no coincidence that he never accomplishes anything for the residents of his district. Thank God for the reporter who uncovered this nonsense. O'connor can't really "retire" soon enough.

Can't fool 'em all said...

What about the fact that Glen Aronow resigned to "spend more time with his family" and then got a plum job with the state? No doubletalk there?

sick & tired said...

The Republicans need an issue to deflect from their own largess.

Whether O'Connor stays or goes, the taxpayers still have to pay for his health care.

It costs the taxpayers not one dime more when he retakes his seat.

So its really a non-issue.

Sean will have to suffer the slings and arrows, but this shall pass.

Anonymous said...

You guys are all wet!!! OConnor was set up by Henry and the GOP.

Cheesepuffs said...

I'm so upset that this freeloader gets to have his benefits paid for for the rest of his life. Why can't the majority caucus sue for damages for what he did to the office of legislator? He gives politicans a bad name.

GOP Shill said...

Sick and Tired and the other Dem shills blogging are completely full of crap in defending O'Connor and they know it.

It's the worst kept secret that O'Connor needs 18 months to hit his 30 years in the Legislature which means he retires with 75 percent of his pay as a pension.

O'Connor then hopes Spitzer gives him a state gig to get his high three years in the system at that 75 percent retirement rate.

If he worked have as hard for his constituents as he did scheming to bilk taxpayers he might have had a legacy.

You can call goverment jobs patronage all you want. The GOP didn't scream when Francine DelMonte's former chief of Staff got a cushy job at parks. You know why? Because supporters of the party that wins elections get jobs. All sides do it.

So if you're mad that Joe Bruno hired Glen Aronow, fine. But Aronow shows up for work and does a job no differnt than anyone else.

O'Connor is a no-show legisltor sticking it to taxpayers so he and Doreen can live six monts a year in Florida.

GOP Shill said...

And one more thing...Rivera, don't hate on patronage hires just because you haven't landed a gig because you can't pass the background check....did someone say Liberty Mutual?

sick & tired said...

gop shill,

While I may defending the individual O'Connor in this particular episode, I have regularly condemned the system that allows these types of games to be played.

In O'Connor's case, he has just found a way to neutralize a power play by the Majority. He played the cards that he'd been dealt by a shady dealer and found a way to trump the cards dealt from the bottom.

Sean has given the majority a taste of its own medicine. GNN editorials notwithstanding, the public at large is probably yawning about this the same way they yawn about AES and the Maziarz machine.

As long as this is the game, O'Connor can be defended by his friends and supporters.

If the issue, as implied by so many here, is really centered on a desire to rid the county of life-time health care to the greatest extent possible, then the legislature can make much broader inroads than just stripping one sitting legislator of his benefit.

There is nothing stopping the legislature from legislating away all life-time benefits for ANYONE, including former legislators, department heads and other non-union retirees, EVERYONE without a union contract to protect the benefit, IMMEDIATELY.

Just think of the SAVINGS that would reap. Forget the inconsequential fiscal impact of the O'Connor benefit. (health insurance budget is en in excess of $24 million, O'Connors 50% less than $5k per year). Who knows how many there are out there. I'm just sure about one other and that's Mal Needler.

With all the savings by cutting all the gratuitous lifetime health care, just imagine how many PIOs, Deputy Clerks, and other "needed" positions that the majority could create to serve the public now!

Now I wonder what the rationale is for folks here NOT advocating elimination of lifetime health care for all whenever and wherever it can be accomplished?

Is it a matter of compassion for long gone officials who may be dependent on their insurance? Or is it imply easier and more politically expedient to attack a minority legislator?

fed up in da falls said...

S&T,

If what you say is true, let me be the first regular blogger on this site to call for eliminating free lifetime health benefits for anyone not explicity guaranteed them via contract or law.

Anonymous said...

Ok sick and tired (Merril Bender)you lost the race by alot so just give up slamming the majority party. You think Oconnor did the right thing?? Now you can see why you lost. You look out only for yourself.