Albany Republicans back off on sneaky pay perk for vice chairmen

Ken Lovett

New York Daily News

Apr 30, 2018

State Senate Republican leaders folded in a fight to pay the vice chairmen of three committees as if they were the chairs, the Daily News has learned.

Sens. Patrick Gallivan (R-Erie County), Thomas O’Mara (R-Chemung County) and Patricia Ritchie (R-St. Lawrence County) will lose several thousand dollars apiece because of the decision.

Under Senate leaders’ original plan, Gallivan, vice chairman of the Education Committee, was to get an $18,000 stipend.

Normally, that stipend would go to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Nassau County).

But Marcellino already gets a stipend as the Senate majority whip. Because state law bars Marcellino from getting two stipends, Senate leaders decided to give his chairman stipend to Gallivan.

State Controller Thomas DiNapoli challenged the payment, since state law grants no stipends to committee vice chairmen.

Because the Senate decided not to challenge DiNapoli’s stance, Gallivan will have to make do with his $12,500 stipend as chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, which he does in fact lead.

Similarly, O’Mara was to get $15,000 as vice chairman of the Transportation Committee, because its chairman, upstate Republican Joseph Robach (R-Monroe County), gets a leadership stipend as secretary of the Senate Majority Conference.

Because of DiNapoli’s challenge, O’Mara will instead get $12,500 as chairman of the Environment and Conservation Committee.

The leadership originally wanted to pay Ritchie $15,000 as vice chairwoman of the Health Committee, because its chairman, Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau County) gets a leadership stipend.

But instead, Ritchie will get $12,500 as the Agriculture Committee chairwoman.

The stipends paid to committee chairmen and legislative leaders are on top of the $79,500 base salary paid to all state legislators.

The Senate — led by Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan — sent DiNapoli’s office paperwork that listed the senators as heading committees when they were actually the vice chairmen.

DiNapoli held off paying Gallivan, O’Mara and Ritchie the extra money because he questioned the payments’ legality.

The Senate Republican counsel had argued to DiNapoli that the payments were perfectly legal. But the Senate recently backed down from its stance.

DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman said the controller’s office is not seeking repayment of the higher stipends the three senators and others received in previous years.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif had no comment Sunday on why the chamber gave up the fight despite insisting repeatedly it was on solid legal ground.