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Politics

Cuomo collecting $4,219 monthly pension

Headshot of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a dark blue suit, white shirt and pink tie
Office of the Governor
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On the heels of notching a $5.2 million contract for a memoir about his management of the pandemic, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has begun collecting a monthly state pension check in the amount of $4,219.11, CNHI has learned.

A spokesman for state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli confirmed that Cuomo began getting his pension last month.

Retirees getting state pensions began seeing a 1.4% cost of living adjustment in their September benefits, meaning it has already been factored into the sum Cuomo is now getting. Cuomo's annual benefits add up to $50,629.32. He will get the amount for the rest of his life, plus future cost of living adjustments. In 2020, his last full year of state service, his annual pay stood at $225,000.

Cuomo resigned from office in August, a little more than 16 months before his third term as governor would have ended. He had been planning to seek re-election next year but his political plans ran aground amid sexual harassment allegations lodged by multiple women, an impeachment probe by the state Assembly and an ongoing criminal investigation by federal prosecutors.

Cuomo is also facing a charge of forcible touching for allegedly groping one of his aides, Brittany Commisso, at the state-owned Executive Mansion. Cuomo has adamantly denied he touched Commisso inappropriately, telling investigators with the state attorney general's office she was "the initiator of the hugs."

Meanwhile, the comptroller's office also confirmed that Melissa DeRosa, who resigned in August from her job as Cuomo's top aide, has been paid $24,586 by the state for accrued vacation time. DeRosa's annual state salary had been $208,785.

Under a pension forfeiture legislation, New York elected officials can have their pensions revoked or reduced if they are convicted of public corruption in connection with their official duties. Whether Cuomo will be charged with public corruption for allegedly manipulating public health data to help him with his book sales and using public employees in the project remains unclear.

But if such charges emerge and Cuomo is convicted, state Sen. Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) said Cuomo's pension benefits could be scrutinized by a judge. Stec had been a trailblazer in advancing the pension forfeiture legislation following a series of scandals involving high-profile state officials.

"The crime would have to do with things that relate to abusing your office," Stec noted, explaining Cuomo could experience repercussions if corruption charges are deemed warranted by prosecutors examining his book project during the pandemic.

"Cuomo could very well be on the hook for forfeiting his pension if he gets convicted of falsifying information regarding the nursing home deaths," Stec said. "The pension benefit is the kind of thing that infuriates the public. People have been very upset and they will be even more furious when they read in the paper he is collecting his pension now."

Cuomo's spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, has said that the state employees who assisted in Cuomo's book project did so voluntary while they were on their own time.

One of the most outspoken critics of the Cuomo administration's undercounting of nursing home fatalities linked to COVID-19, Assemblyman Ron Kim, D-Queens, said he remains hopeful the Assembly will move forward with a formal impeachment proceeding even though Cuomo left office more than three months ago.

"From my point of view, it is egregious that he gets to walk away with the money," Kim said in an interview. "But I respect the process."

Cuomo will turn 64 on Dec. 6. Under Social Security rules, his eligibility for full Social Security retirement will commence in May 2024, when he is 66 1/2 years old, though he could begin receiving a reduced Social Security benefit now. His state pension is based on 15 years in state service — the first four as state attorney general, with nearly 11 years as governor.