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Convicted ex-comptroller cleans up in prison

Former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi consults with his attorney, Brian Waller, during his arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court. Hevesi is collecting a six-figure pension as he serves time in an upstate prison. AP Photo/Louis Lanzano
TimesLedger Newspapers

Disgraced former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi is collecting a six-figure pension while he serves time in a state prison on corruption charges.

Hevesi, also an ex-state assemblyman and city comptroller from Forest Hills, was sentenced to one to four years in prison in April for accepting about $1 million in gifts, including trips to Israel and Italy, in return for investing state pension funds with favored firms that paid for the gifts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an ethics reform package, dubbed the Clean Up Albany Act, in June that included cutting back or taking away pensions from state officials who violate the public trust, but the law only applies to those who are enrolled in the pension system after this month and are convicted of a felony for misconduct they committed after the law goes into effect. This means the law does not apply to Hevesi.

“It’s outrageous, but the current law protects him and others like him,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of the good government group Citizens Union. “It’s one of the flaws in our pension system.”

A caveat to the law is that it is up to a trial judge whether or not an elected official who commits wrongdoing in his or her official capacity has the pension reduced or taken away.

State law prevents the terms of pensions from being changed retroactively and only a constitutional amendment can expand the law Cuomo signed in June.

“In the past, this was [considered] a benefit that essentially you were entitled to ... and to take it completely away was unfair,” said Russ Haven, executive director of the good government New York Public Interest Research Group. “It may punish your dependents — your spouse, your kids.”

Hevesi collects four separate pensions: two from the state for his service as an assemblyman and comptroller; a city pension for his tenure as city comptroller; and a pension from CUNY for his time as a professor at Queens College.

Just from the state alone, Hevesi’s annual pension is $105,689.40, according to figures provided by the state comptroller’s office.

It is unclear how much Hevesi collects from the city and CUNY.

Hevesi is serving a one- to four-year prison term in the Midstate Correctional Facility in Ulster County and is eligible for parole in April. He is housed in the prison’s protective custody unit and is assigned the inmate No. 11-R-1334.

He also earns $1 a day for his job sweeping the prison’s floors, according to state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Linda Foglia.

Hevesi has stayed out of trouble while in prison and received recreation periods for his good behavior.

“I wouldn’t say ‘model prisoner,’ but there’s no disciplinary action on file,” Foglia said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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