New York Gov. Seeks to Retroactively Strip Pensions From Public Officials Convicted of Felonies

Andrew Cuomo

The arrest of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last month left a bitter taste in the mouths of many in the New York legislature.

The arrest came at an ironic time, just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo was rolling out a series of ethics proposals aimed at lawmakers.

Now, Cuomo has added another bullet point to his ethics reform wish list: retroactively stripping pensions from public officials convicted of felonies.

A 2011 law – the Public Integrity Reform Act – already takes away pensions from officials who have been convicted of felonies in relation to their public duties. But the law only affects those who were convicted after 2011.

Cuomo wants to extend the law to retroactively include officials convicted before the law was passed.

More from the Times-Union:

The proposed change, part of the governor’s five-point ethics ultimatum, would retroactively extend the effects of a 2011 law that allowed for the denial of pensions from public officials who entered the system going forward. Because of the need for a constitutional change to affect those already in the system, an entire rogues’ gallery of corrupt pols […] who faced trial after the law was passed continue to receive sizable public pensions despite being convicted of stealing from the same trough or using their positions to enrich themselves in other ways.

“Public officials who are convicted of public corruption should not have taxpayers pay for their retirement,” Cuomo said two weeks ago in a speech at New York University Law School, where he laid out the reform items he wants to see included in the state budget package. That plan has to be hammered out with legislative leaders before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year.


The 2011 Public Integrity Reform Act said that the pensions of a wide swath of public officials and employees — including the governor and lawmakers as well as state agency and municipal workers — could be taken away following conviction on a defined set of felonies, including larceny from public sources and using official powers in an attempt to defraud someone. But because of the ’38 amendment, the law could only affect those joining the pension system after the law went into effect.

The proposal could be hard to enact because it will require a constitutional amendment – which is no easy feat.

The proposal will have to be passed by both chambers of the New York legislature. Then, it will need to be passed again by both chambers in 2017.

After that, the measure will be put on the ballot and voted on by state citizens. If it passes the state-wide vote, then the measure will become law.


Photo credit: Andrew Cuomo by Pat Arnow.jpeg: Pat Arnow derivative work: UpstateNYer (Andrew Cuomo by Pat Arnow.jpeg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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