4 Albany lawyers kicked out of state pension system
NEWSDAY BY SANDRA PEDDIE AND EDEN LAIKIN - April 17, 2008
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has revoked four lawyers' memberships in the state pension system and canceled service credits for a fifth after determining they were not public employees, a spokeswoman said Thursday. The lawyers are all partners in Girvin & Ferlazzo, a prominent Albany law firm. Auditors found that all five had been reported as full-time employees of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES, located west of Albany, when the five actually had worked a total of just 196 days in the 2006-2007 school year. One lawyer, auditors said, worked only four hours. The five were paid a total of $234,000 for the year, auditors said.
"We determined that these lawyers were inappropriately classified as employees," said DiNapoli's spokeswoman, Emily DeSantis. The four lawyers whose pension memberships were revoked are: James E. Girvin, 52; Kathy Ann Wolverton, 44; Kristine A. Lanchantin, 48, and Jeffrey D. Honeywell, 49. A fifth lawyer, Salvatore Ferlazzo, 52, had 5.75 years of service canceled. He is the only one who has pension credits from another entity, and the comptroller is investigating that, DeSantis said. None returned calls for comment.
Although DeSantis said it is not the first time the state comptroller has revoked pension credits, this is the first time such an action has been taken since the office began its statewide review of lawyers in the pension system. The comptroller's review was prompted by a Newsday story in February about Centerport attorney Lawrence Reich, who was falsely reported as a full-time employee of five school districts at the same time, while also collecting millions of dollars in retainer fees. The comptroller froze Reich's $61,459 annual pension and ordered him to return all payments he had been receiving since August 2006. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, state attorney general and Nassau County district attorney all have launched investigations.
Although none of the five lawyers had begun collecting pensions, each had accumulated substantial time in the state pension system. Girvin had 16.5 years; Honeywell, 15.75; Lanchantin, 15.75; Wolverton, 8.7, and Ferlazzo, 5.75 years. Auditors determined they were not employees because they did not work fixed hours, submit time sheets or physically work at BOCES, and they used their own equipment to do their work. In addition, BOCES management did not oversee their work.
After being notified by the comptroller that the lawyers were not employees, the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES removed them from the payroll and fired the firm, DeSantis said. Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Superintendent Geoffrey Davis responded to an e-mail request for comment by saying that BOCES "fully cooperated" with the comptroller and "promptly discontinued the five attorneys from the payroll as soon as it became clear that a reasonable dispute existed as to their status." email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org