Sayward, Duprey defend collecting pension

Two North Country lawmakers are defending their decision to take pension payments.

Earlier this week, the Plattsburgh Press Republican reported that Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey will retire from office effective Dec. 31 and then go back on the state payroll Jan. 1.

That allows them to collect pension from the State Retirement System while also receiving their pay as members of the state Assembly.

A spokesman for the New York State Comptroller's Office told the Press Republican that the retirement loophole was closed in 2005 - but politicians elected before 1995 can "retire at the end of a year and resume office on Jan. 1" if they are of retirement age.

"If they are an elected official, there is no protocol that prevents them receiving a full salary at the same time as a state pension," the spokesman told the newspaper.

Taxpayers are already crying foul over the so-called "double-dipping" - and officials with watchdog groups like the New York State Public Interest Research Group say constituents have the right to be angry.

But Teresa Sayward is defending her decision.

"It's incorrect in the newspaper to say our pension diminishes - it does not," she said. "What diminishes is our death benefit. After you reach 60-years-old, your death benefit keeps decreasing every single year. It was also incorrect to use the $75,000 figure - I've lost nearly $50,000 in my death benefit. If I die while I'm in office, my husband just gets the death benefit; he'll never get any of my retirement."

Sayward says she's worked more than 20 years for her retirement, both as an Assemblywoman and as supervisor for the Essex County town of Willsboro.

She notes that her pension won't be very large - less than $40,000 annually. She says she took her pension to protect her husband.

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