January 15, 2018

Grains of Salt (v28): Two (More) Scoops, Please

I happened to be reading last week's local papers  over the weekend and stumbled upon on of my least favorite articles - a double-dipping politician.

I've talked about my distaste for this in the past, because, sadly, we've had a number of folks who have done this. State Senator John DeFrancisco said he wouldn't take both his pension and his salary, but he did it anyway. Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway said he wouldn't, and did it anyway. His predecessor, Sheriff Kevin Walsh, did it and blamed us for not asking him if he was going to do it. And now, our District Attorney for Life William Fitzpatrick, has let it be known that he's going to do it too.

It seems Fitz officially retired at the end of December but he never left his job and may have no intention of doing so any time soon. He's working on a trial right now. He's in his seventh term, having first been sworn in way back in 1992, but he's been in the DA's office for much longer.  As a result, he doesn't have to get a waiver to take his full pension - there's a special rule for elected officials who've been in office since before July of 1995.

His salary as DA is over $180,000 a year; his pension could also be in the six figures, depending on which tier he falls on in the NYS pension system.

All of this is perfectly legal, and like other locals mentioned above, he takes the pension for the best of reasons.
The term double-dipping is inciteful, but I"m actually protecting my family. If I died today my wife wouldn't get my pension. 
There are a few problems here. First, the law provides special protection to elected officials who have been around since Methuselah was a child; second, the lack of term limits for elected officials, which allows them Methuselah-like years in office, building up the power of incumbency to the point that many run woefully under-opposed, if not totally unopposed, term after term.

And, of course, there's the part that makes the elected officials believe that we need them  - not that they need us, mind you.  Not that they need us, but that we need them. So much so, that we'll accept them getting paid for working at a job while getting paid their pension for the same job. I'm not sure we need them that much or for that long. 

To be honest, I'd rather they really retired, took their pension, and rode off into the private sector sunset. Or the RV retirement sunset. Or any other kind of retirement sunset, for that matter. Because one scoop really is plenty.

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