Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties
We already knew New York State has a generous pension system, but some state leaders were stunned to find out who else is collecting from it.
Turns out, according to the Associated Press, some private lobbyists, who never even worked for the state, are drawing a state pension.
Stephen Acquario is a lobbyist who runs the New York State Association of Counties. It's not a government agency. It's a group that lobbies the state to cut expenses for counties.
According to the Associated Press Acquario, makes more than $200,000 a year, gets a company car, and, even though he's a private lobbyist working for a private association, he gets a state pension through his job there.
And he's hardly alone. State Senator Tim Kennedy was stunned by the revelation.
REPORTER: Should these people be qualifying for state pensions?
KENNEDY: Of course not. This is certifiably outrageous.
"If you told me this was in a comedy, I would say that's not even close enough to real life," Assemblyman Sean Ryan said. "But it turns out it is real life, and that's something we have to change."
In New York, the employees of groups like the state association of counties, cities, and school boards get state pensions, even though they're not state employees and their organizations are not subject to any state oversight.
Apparently, the groups got into the state pension system decades ago, because they help local government agencies.
"The biggest lobbying points these groups have made over the last four years is that the cost of a New York State pension is too high," Ryan said. "And isn't that outrageous that the people who are lobbying against the pension system, found a back door way for themselves to get into -- the pension system. It's outrageous."
All told, 8 of these associations state-wide have 120 employees. While the legislature could vote to do away with their pensions, it would only affect new employees.
The pensions for Acquario and others already in the system are constitutionally protected in New York.
REPORTER: Is there anything you can actually do to put a stop to it?
KENNEDY: Certainly, now that Now that we've been made aware of these issues, it needs to be addressed with legislation and potentially even a constitutional amendment.
We spoke to Acquario by phone Monday. He said these pension laws have been on the books since the 1950s, and they're required by law to follow them. He also said the association of counties would consider supporting a bill that eliminates the pensions for new employees there.