NY Unveils Pension System Watchdog

September 25, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has unveiled a new Retirement Compliance Unit to police compliance with eligibility requirements for the New York State and Local Retirement System.

A DiNapoli news release Thursday said the new unit would “actively monitor participating employers, members and retirees’ compliance with regulations and reporting requirements.” DiNapoli also introduced regulations to increase accountability and transparency in local government reporting of time worked by local and elected officials.

DiNapoli’s move comes after a major 2008 investigation that started in February turned up evidence of potential wrongdoing from 319 participating employers about their employment relationships with New York state-registered attorneys (See  More Settlements Announced in NY Attorney Pension Probe ). As a result, DiNapoli has revoked the Retirement System membership or rescinded service credit of 35 people and is in the process of collecting nearly $950,000 from retirees whose pensions DiNapoli has revoked or reduced.

“We’re going to make sure that only those individuals who are entitled to a state pension get a state pension,” DiNapoli said in his announcement. “I’m also taking a top to bottom look at how the Retirement System can do things to better protect the state pension fund from abuse.”

Specifically, the unit will:

  • identify and stop attempts to improperly gain retirement benefits;
  • implement new regulations for reporting time of elected and appointed officials;
  • strengthen auditing of employer reporting to the Retirement System;
  • continue to review lawyers and other professionals in the Retirement System; and
  • enforce regulations on membership eligibility to the Retirement System.

The regulations require participating employers to pass and file two resolutions with the Retirement System. It also requires elected and appointed officials who do not maintain timesheets to file a record of activities with their employer and the employer files a certification with the Retirement System, according to the DiNapoli statement.

In addition, the resolutions must be posted on the employers’ Web site for 30 days. If the employer does not file the resolutions or certification with the Retirement System within the specified time frames, the Retirement System will suspend granting service credit for those positions.

DiNapoli said in the news release that his office will help local governments understand the new regulations by expanding training opportunities for participating employers. DiNapoli’s staff is also conducting training sessions for a number of organizations, including the New York Conference of Mayors, the New York State Government Finance Officers Association, and the New York State School Boards Association.

An interview with DiNapoli about the new unit is here . The new regulations are available here