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August 02, 2010

Working while retired

Officials in New Hartford say they were surprised to learn recently that town bookkeeper Carol Fairbrother retired in 2007 and now collects a pension of $42,696 on top of her $58,714 salary.

Meanwhile, Yonkers city officials plan to rehire Deputy Mayor William Regan on August 12, the day after he retires.

Both are examples of double-dipping that raise questions about keeping retirees on the payroll when so many other New Yorkers are unemployed.

In Fairbrother's case, a lawsuit by a citizens group alleges that prior to her 2007 retirement she made a "demand on town officials in exchange for her silence concerning highly improper accounting of town revenues and expenditures".

In 2008, she received $71,544 in overtime for the period between 2002 and 2007, which boosted her pension by 29 percent, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

In an editorial, the paper calls Fairbrother's "the most egregious recent example locally" of double-dipping.

Fairbrother will pull in about $101,000 this year from the combination of paycheck and pension. In the Mohawk Valley, that is an absurd sum of money to be paying a bookkeeper, particularly one who was overseeing the books as New Hartford's finances went into the toilet without anybody knowing about it between 2006 and 2009.
Fairbrother who is over 65 did not need a waiver to collect a pension while holding a government job.
But [Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the pension system] said such employees must formally retire from the town and then be rehired, even if there is very little time between the two.

"That can take two seconds," he said. Still, Fairbrother should have been formally taken off the town payroll and then reinstated, he said.

It appears that did not happen.

In Yonkers, that will happen when Deputy Mayor William Regan formally retires August 11, confident he will be rehired the next day.
Regan, 62, whose current salary is $163,332, will earn $29,999 when he is rehired. Mayor Phil Amicone's spokesman, David Simpson, said Regan's new salary plus his annual pension are expected to match his current salary.
Regan's lower salary will relieve the administration from having to request a waiver from the state Civil Service Commission, whose post-retirement income threshold for a waiver requirement is $30,000 for people under 65.Regan told the Journal News the move will save the city about $150,000 over the next 16 months. The newspaper does not quote other city officials to independently back up Regan's claim.

Regan explains that he was also motivated by protecting his wife's right to his pension. He told the paper that if he died while his an "active" city employee, "my wife gets only a lump sum, so I'm protecting her."

Posted by Lise Bang-Jensen

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