It's outrageous that school districts in New York are allowing part-time lawyers access to full pension and health insurance benefits on the public dime. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo suspects it's happening in at least 180 school districts, including here in Niagara County. Wisely, he has launched a full-scale investigation that involves issuing subpoenas to more than 90 lawyers.
Because where there's smoke, there's usually fire, Cuomo must not limit his investigation to school districts. He should also look closely at the benefits that towns and villages are extending to their part-time workers. It's simply ludicrous, particularly at a time of budget shortfalls, layoffs and talk of recession, that elected officials are doling out such lavish benefits, but it's hardly surprising.
Cuomo's probe of part-timers included one lawyer who worked for seven school districts and BOCES in one year, and received $700,000 in pension benefits.
Meantime, Robert Koegel, head of the New York Bar Association's municipal law section, insists that giving part-time lawyers state pensions and health benefits is "completely acceptable." Oh yeah? That type of entitlement attitude is exactly the problem.
Along with Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also busy tackling this issue. He is using newly adopted legislation that requires local governments and school districts to better classify who qualifies as an employee.
As DiNapoli pointed out, "pensions are for employees." They should not be used as an extra meal ticket for well-off lawyers.