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We were dairy farmers... It simply was a decision I made to protect my husband.

Sayward, Duprey defend pension loophole

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Two North Country lawmakers are defending their decisions to take state pension payments while staying on in the Assembly.

Earlier this week, the Plattsburgh Press Republican reported that Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey are among a number of state representatives who will retire from office effective Dec. 31 -- and then promptly go back on the state payroll Jan. 1. That allows them to collect state pension checks while also receiving their pay as members of the Assembly.

It's called "double-dipping" and officials with watchdog groups like the New York State Public Interest Research Group say taxpayers have a right to be angry. Sayward and Duprey defend their double payments, and say the practice is a common one for people whose careers move from one publicly-funded job to another. Martha Foley has more.

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

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

That allows them to collect state  pension checks while also receiving their pay as members of the Assembly.

A spokesman for the State Comptroller’s Office told the Press Republican that the retirement loophole was closed in 2005 – but politicians elected before 1995 can  still take both payments.

It’s called “double-dipping” – and officials with watchdog groups like the New York State Public Interest Research Group say taxpayerts have a right to be angry.

But Teresa Sayward says she’s worked more than 20 years for her pension, first as supervisor for the Essex County town of Willsboro, now as assemblywoman.

She defends her decision, one she says most families confront as they age.

Sayward says state retirement pays her less than $40,000 annually, and she’s taking it now to protect her husband.

“We were dairy farmers,” Sayward said. “All he has is social security and the little bit we were able to put aside.” “It simply was a decision I made to protect my husband,” she said. “And I think families make decisions like that as you start looking at how you’re going to maintain for the rest of your lives when, in fact, I do decide that I want to get out of the business and have a few years left.”

Sayward says taxpayers may not realize how much of her own money she puts into her job as a legislator. Most of her gas money comes from her own pocket. She also maintains a residence in Glens Falls to be closer to the capitol during legislative sessions.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey says she could have retired from her post as a county treasurer 10 years ago.

She also notes that while she’s been criticized for accepting a state pension, both of her opponents in this fall’s election – Democrat Rudy Johnson and Conservative David Kimmel – collect a federal pension.

Duprey also says she filed for her retirement in the best interest of her family. “I took a reduced retirement rate – he will receive a monthly income if I die first. I’ve been married 40 years and elected 35 years of them, my husband deserves something. He’s worked very hard, he worked for the state for 22 years, his state retirement is less than $20,000 a year.”

Sayward says collecting a state pension while continuing to work is a common practice. “How many New York State Troopers retire and go back and work as a sheriff?” she asked. “Whether its school teachers, school superintendents…We had a supervisor here in my hometown who was supervisor here before and he worked at the county, he retired and went back to work. It happens all the time.”

And, Sayward says, voters will let her know in two years whether it’s right or wrong.

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