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New York state Sen. Tedisco, St. Clare’s pensioners get long-awaited meeting with governor’s office

Mary Hartshorne and Senator Jim Tedisco
Dave Lucas
Mary Hartshorne and Senator Jim Tedisco

As employees of the former St. Clare's Hospital in Schenectady continue to fight to recover their pensions, a meeting took place Tuesday between employee advocates and two of Governor Kathy Hochul's staff members.

Over 1,100 health care professionals who worked at the former St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady lost some or all of their retirement savings when the St. Clare's pension fund dried up in 2019 following a move to drop the fund's federal pension insurance protection in the 1990s.

Republican Senator Jim Tedisco and St. Clare’s Hospital Recovery Alliance Chair Mary Hartshorne had made several attempts to meet with former Governor Cuomo and current Governor Hochul. On January 10th, Tedisco encountered Governor Hochul at her State of the State address and asked her to make time for the St. Clare’s pensioners.

Hochul's office eventually got back to Tedisco to say that the issue did not merit meeting with the governor personally and that her staff would take the meeting, which happened Tuesday and lasted for 30 minutes.

Tedisco says the meeting was a "positive thing."

"It wasn't totally what Mary and I wanted," said Tedisco. "But we got before top administrators in the governor's office. And they promised, first of all, to bring the information Mary and I gave to them. Secondly, we got them to say 'we'll give you a conduit here where Mary can interact with anybody when she has more information,' that significant step forward or step back either way, and they can relay that to the leader of our state."

In 2019 a group of advocates filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany seeking damages for the pensioners. In May 2022, State Attorney General Tish James announced she had filed a separate lawsuit against the diocese. Hartshorne says the pensioners continue waiting.

"Many times when I've brought up this subject of I wanted five minutes with the governor, I've been told I was crazy, many times," said Hartshorne. "And I'm also called the pitbull of the group because I won't let go with this idea. It wasn't just five minutes with the governor, it was getting out the idea that we never fully had the whole story. From the very beginning the pensioners were never consulted about anything, any decisions that were made, especially the last one that ripped our pension from us with three weeks’ notice. None of that was ever discussed with us. So to me and to the 1,100 pensioners that I represent. There's more to this story in the fact that I'm able to talk to two people from the governor's staff, they were very kind. They listened and they seem to be well versed in our story, which was very helpful for me. I was happy about that."

The governor's office responded to a request for comment via email, saying: “St. Clare's pensioners worked hard and deserve better. While today's meeting was productive, we will continue working with stakeholders and legislators to determine whether there are additional measures on top of what New York State has already provided to help resolve this debacle.”

Hartshorne says it was a step forward.

"I feel that these two gentlemen are going to look into it a little more and listened. They said I gave them a lot to digest. Well, that's no surprise. I've got plenty, like I said to our lead attorney before I left today, she called and said, 'Are you OK?' I said 'I've told this story for almost five years now.' And this comes from my heart," Hartshorne said.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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