New York State has what's generally considered among the most extensive protections of public sector pensions in the states, thanks to a constitutional clause guaranteeing that pensions cannot be diminished. The protection is considered so great that NY lawmakers have over the years used it to justify continuing to pay pensions to politicians convicted of corruption. Now a federal prosecutor is stepping in to stop the process.
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Manhattan, has filed motions to seize pension payments of two former New York City councilmen convicted of corruption, and he's initiating discovery to locate benefits already paid to another convicted city councilman as well as a Yonkers councilman also convicted by Bharara.
Bharara shook things up in September when he announced at hearings on corruption in the Empire State that he considered it "a galling injustice" that state pols continued to cash in on their pensions even after going to jail. He said that state protections against forfeiting those pensions "must succumb to common sense."