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Some, Like Granto, Kee, Boast Big Pensions

By Darryl McPherson

If you have the time, take a look at http://seethroughny.net/. It is a website designed to cast sunshine on government by providing visitors with an idea of how their state and local tax dollars are spent by various New York State and local agencies.
The site is sponsored by the Empire Center for New York State Policy, part of the non-profit Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

There is information available on payrolls, contracts and other expenditures, but at this time, we are focusing on pensions. The ability of public employees to increase their pensions beyond their salary through the manipulation of overtime is a fairly well-known aspect of the system.

While it isn’t a direct abuse (the practice is legal), it carries the cynical realization that it is being supported, in part, by public tax dollars.

The largest single pension in the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System for 2012 is being received by George Philip in the amount of $261,036.60. The monthly rate is $21,753.05. What is perhaps the most noteworthy thing about this accomplishment is that Mr. Philip’s former employer was the New York State Teachers Retirement System. Can there be a better place to learn how to game the system?

In contrast, the smallest pension being paid out is $1.14 per month or $13.68 a year. One wonders why they bother.

One interesting name on the list is that of former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who resigned from office as part of a plea deal for abusing state property and was later convicted on corruption charges related to abuses surrounding the New York State Pension Fund. He receives $109,689 per year. Pension rights are guaranteed under the State Constitution, so that document would have to be amended in order to prevent someone like Hevesi from collecting.

One of the largest local pensions belongs to Carmen Granto, Jr., the retired superintendent of schools for the Niagara Falls School District. He receives a pension of $147,109, which is a nice feat considering his salary was approximately $129,000 when he retired on January 1, 2009.

Also of local interest, the next highest pension goes to Lawrence Meckler, the former Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). He gets $132,608 per year.

Not too far behind is former NFTA General Counsel David Gregory at $98,839.92 per year.

Sheila Kee, the vice president and chief operating officer of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, retired from Erie County with a $99,389.04 pension. She was formerly the County’s budget director.

The highest paid City of Niagara Falls employee outside of the Police and Fire System is Patricia Lenhart at $48,360.84 per year. The highest paid School District employee is James Ingrasci at $86,784.36 per year; both are former finance professionals with their respective governmental entities.

Within the New York State Police and Fire Retirement System, the highest pension belongs to Louis Echavarria of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who gets $196,768 per year. The highest retiree from the City of Niagara Falls in the same system is Ernest Palmer, who receives $90,772 per year.

A recent entrant into the Police and Fire Retirement System is the former Niagara Falls Superintendent John Chella, who managed to work an additional year while making a deal with the mayor and the city council to increase his final pension amount. Though his base salary was $88,072 for 2012, he will receive a higher pension based on an enhanced final year salary in the neighborhood of $125,000, resulting in Chella getting a pension of around $97,000 per year.

State pensions are not subject to state and local taxes, and a cost of living adjustment can be expected if the recipient is 62 years old and has been retired for five years, or 55 years old and retired for 10 years.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 29 , 2013