Friday, May 09, 2008

Pension For Sanit 1 Counsel Gets Trashed

Nat "Extra Trucks To Collect The Leftover Bread During Passover" Swergold Loses NYS Pension

Seagulls Come Home To Feast On Sanitary District 1 Garbage

We can't say we feel particularly sorry for Nat Swergold, who, for what seemed liked three lifetimes, served as counsel to Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 1, accruing credits in the State pension system, while, at the same time, working, full-time, in a private law practice.

The recent surfacing of "pensiongate" among attorneys who claimed to be full-time employees of school districts -- in fact, of several school districts, simultaneously -- proved to be the undoing of two special district mainstays at Sanit 1, Nat Swergold, of foot-in-mouth fame, and Salvatore Evola, the district's accountant/treasurer, who claimed pension credits for full-time employment by the Village of Cedarhurst, since 2003, part-time employment by the Inwood Fire District, since 1999, and part-time employment by Island Park school district from 2001 to 2006, this in addition to his alleged part-time job Sanitation District No. 1 since 1995.

Swergold, who is 72, has held his position as counsel with Sanitary District 1 since 1972.

Great work, if you can get it, eh?

Could this be the end of the double-dipping (triple-dipping?), benefit-grabbing, soak-the-taxpayer antics for which the special districts have become infamous?


For now, let's call it the beginning of the end of one of the greatest rip-offs known in these parts -- special taxing district perks.

As for Nat Swergold, well, it looks like he'll have to keep working until he's 92, 'cause John Q. Public won't be financing his retirement!
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LI accountant, 2 lawyers lose state pension credits

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has removed two Long Island attorneys from the state retirement system and rescinded some pension credits of an accountant from Long Island after finding the three had been improperly reported as public employees, spokesman Dennis Tompkins said yesterday.

The action affects Franklin Square school attorney William Cullen and, for the first time, two people reported as employees of a special district - attorney Nat Swergold and accountant Salvatore Evola of Sanitation District No. 1 in Lawrence. The action follows a series of Newsday stories detailing how private attorneys - already paid thousands of dollars in legal fees - were able to get into the state retirement system by being improperly reported as public employees.

Newsday also has reported on the generous salaries and benefits paid to employees of special districts in Nassau County.Since the stories, the state attorney general, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and Nassau district attorney all have launched criminal and civil investigations.

"We are moving forward, case by case," DiNapoli said in a statement. The comptroller also took action yesterday against three upstate attorneys, revoking the retirement system membership of two and taking away some pension credits from a third.

None of those affected by the action have begun collecting pensions.

The state comptroller's office would not estimate the amount of pensions the six individuals would have received, but they are believed to be tens of thousands of dollars annually. Swergold and Cullen each plan to fight DiNapoli's decision. Swergold, 72, who was criticized in a 2005 Nassau comptroller's audit for being paid as both a public employee and a consultant, had accrued nearly 36 years in the retirement system.

"Is a convicted felon entitled to greater protection than Nat Swergold?" he said of himself, referring to a Newsday story Tuesday about former Roslyn Superintendent Frank Tassone, who is collecting an annual $173,495 state pension while in prison for embezzling $2.2 million from the district. "This is craziness."

Cullen's attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, said his client, too, would fight the action. "Bill Cullen is fully entitled to the service credits, and we will be fighting this," Keating said.

Cullen, 56, will lose approximately 18 years of pension credits. He recently sent a letter to the comptroller asking to withdraw from the pension system, but Keating said he wrote it only to avoid the appearance of impropriety and as a reaction to "adverse publicity."

Evola, 42, has accrued nearly 20 years of credits but will lose 9.7 years, Tompkins said. His employment status was also criticized in the county comptroller's audit.

Records show Evola has been employed by the Village of Cedarhurst, Sanitation District No. 1, Island Park School District and Inwood Fire District at the same time. He also worked as a partner in a private accounting firm. Evola said he has left the Island Park School District and no longer maintains his private practice.

Upstate, the comptroller revoked the pension membership of attorneys Maria Massaro, 39, of Niagara Falls, and M. Cornelia Cahill, 51, of Schenectady. The office also rescinded some pension credits of attorney Maureen Harris, 38, of Slingerlands. Harris, a former partner of the influential Albany law firm of Girvin and Ferlazzo, couldn't be reached for comment. Although she is losing one year of credit she got through the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES, she will keep credits she has earned as a commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission, Tompkins said. Cahill and Massaro couldn't be reached for comment.

Newsday previously reported that Harris and Cahill are under investigation by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has criminal jurisdiction, for possibly improperly obtaining pension credits from an upstate BOCES district. In addition, the paper has reported that Cullen has been offered a settlement of his case by Cuomo's office.

Staff writer Robert Kessler contributed to this story.


WILLIAM CULLEN, 56, Lloyd Harbor private attorney
He was reported as full-time by Franklin Square schools (until February 2008); part- time by Brentwood library (until February 2008); part-time for Half Hollow Hills library (until 2002).Action: Revoked retirement system membership; lost 18.2 years of pension credits.

NAT SWERGOLD, 72, Woodbury private attorney
He was reported as full-time by Sanitation District No. 1 in Lawrence since July 1972.Action: Revoked retirement system membership; lost 35.7 years of pension credits.

SALVATORE EVOLA, 42, Woodmere accountant/treasurer
He was reported as full-time by Village of Cedarhurst, since 2003; part-time by Inwood Fire District, since 1999; part-time by Island Park school district from 2001 to 2006 and part-time by Sanitation District No. 1 since 1995.Action: Lost 9.7 years of pension credits (reported by the sanitation district.)

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