NY Comptroller Implicates More Attorneys in Excess Pension Probe

August 28, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - More attorneys have been accused by New York state officials of improperly receiving retirement system benefits when they were not employees of the state.

New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on Wednesday announced his office notified two Long Island attorneys, Albert D’Agostino and Lawrence Reich, that they must repay the New York State and Local Retirement System for pension benefits that were erroneously paid to them, revoked the membership of three other attorneys, and rescinded service credit of two more attorneys from across New York.

Calling their actions “unacceptable” and “the most egregious examples we’ve found so far,” DiNapoli said D’Agostino must repay the Retirement System $605,874 for pension payments made to him from August 2002 through March 2008, and Reich must repay the Retirement System $83,624 for excess pension payments. DiNapoli’s office revoked D’Agostino’s pension after it determined that the Nassau County Planning Commission, Valley Stream Union Free School District, Lawrence UFSD, and North Merrick UFSD all incorrectly claimed that D’Agostino was an employee when he actually worked as an independent contractor. Six school districts incorrectly reported Reich as an employee and DiNapoli suspended his pension in March.

In addition, the announcement said the comptroller revoked the Retirement System memberships of Deveraux Cannick, Jennifer Fremgen, and Marc Reitz, and rescinded the service credit of Henry Sobota and Norman Gross. DiNapoli’s office determined Mount Vernon Central School District, located in Westchester County, incorrectly reported both Cannick and Fremgen as employees when they served as independent contractors, and the Madison-Oneida Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) incorrectly reported Reitz, Sobota, and Gross as employees.

The actions are part of a widespread probe by New York officials of local government agencies improperly giving outside lawyers pension credits (See Empire State Pension Probe Could Snare Hundreds of Lawyers).

On August 20, DiNapoli announced his office revoked the New York State and Local Retirement System membership of Joseph Pondolfino, Thomas DeBoy, and Gilbert Henoch and rescinded service credit of Michael Bergan, Paul Dierdorf, and Eugene Renzi. DiNapoli's office determined Oneonta Central School District, located in Otsego County, incorrectly reported Pondolfino as an employee; DeBoy incorrectly received 3.75 years of service credit from Cheektowaga Central School District in Erie County; and Henoch was incorrectly reported as an employee by two Long Island school districts, Hempstead Union Free School District and East Meadow Union Free School District.

In June, Girvin & Ferlazzo of Albany agreed to pay $500,000 as part of a settlement of claims by state officials, and Hogan, Sarzynski, Lynch, Surowka & DeWind of Johnson City agreed to pay $100,000 (See More Settlements Announced in NY Attorney Pension Probe ). Prior to that, a settlement of $235,000 was reached with Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett and Reitz P.C. of East Syracuse; the New York City law firm of Aiello and Cannick; and Long Island attorney Gilbert Henoch (See NY Settles Attorney Pension Misuse Charges ).

The DiNapoli announcement said local governments who need help to determine whether an individual should be considered an employee or an independent contractor should call 518-474-0167.