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Lawmakers Seek Pause On Dissolution As AG Investigates St. Clare's Pension Fund Collapse

Senator James Tedisco and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara
Dave Lucas
Senator James Tedisco and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara

The New York State Attorney General’s office is now investigating the collapse of a hospital retirement fund in Schenectady. Two state lawmakers have also filed legislation intended to get answers.

Earlier this month, Republican State Senator James Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara introduced legislation to halt the dissolution of the St. Clare’s Hospital Corporation until an investigation is completed to determine how the hospital’s pension fund collapsed.

St. Clare’s Hospital, with ties to the Catholic Church, closed in 2008 under financial pressures.

The hospital was shuttered after a mandate from a state panel known as the Berger Commission.

Renamed the McClellan Street Health Center, the site of the former hospital in Schenectady is now run by Ellis Medicine.

When the hospital was closed, New York state paid $50 million to St. Clare’s, with more than $28 million intended to meet the needs of the hospital’s pension fund. A decade later, the St. Clare’s Hospital Corporation is seeking dissolution from the state Supreme Court.

But the lawmakers say: not so fast.

State Senator Tedisco of the 49th district:

“We want to know how they spent that $28.5 million before the court says, ‘Yeah, you can shut this down and leave all these pensioners out in the cold,” said Tedisco.

The Senate version of the bill to delay the issuance of a Certificate of Dissolution until the state Health Department, Attorney General, or Comptroller’s office investigates the collapse of the pension fund and whether or not there was any wrongdoing, is moving through committee. But lawmakers are set to leave Albany in June for the year.

Assemblyman Santabarbara, a Democrat from the 111th, said in a statement he was pleased that Attorney General Tish James is looking into what happened to the retirement fund. He said “more than 1,100 retirees…were told that they will receive no pension – they deserve to know why.”

The Attorney General’s office is arguing the hospital corporation did not provide proper financial paperwork as it applies for dissolution.

In February, pensioners including Mary Hartshorne met with Senator Tedisco, Assemblyman Santabarbara, and Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Albany Diocese to advocate for a solution. Here’s Hartshorne speaking at a press conference following the closed-door meeting.  

“It’s important for people to know that we worked so hard for this for years and years. And we deserve it,” said Hartshorne.

Tedisco says he and Santabarbara are still looking for answers.

Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo, told WAMC:

"We support the attorney general's investigation and await its results while we review potential legislative remedies."

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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