New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said today that he is subpoenaing BOCES districts statewide because they may have been complicit in listing part-time lawyers as full-time employees to get additional state tax dollars.
Cuomo is targeting the state’s 38 BOCES districts, which operate regional services for a number of public school districts. Cuomo says the BOCES districts appear to have gained more state school aid by providing health and pension benefits to BOCES attorneys who worked part-time for school districts in addition to their full-time private practices.
“The BOCES may not have had clean hands because it appears there was a financial incentive to BOCES to do it this way and there was also an incentive to the lawyers who could also get the health and pension benefits,” Cuomo said.
“I don’t accept that people were unclear about the law,” he said. “The law on employee versus independent contractor is well settled. It is a highly litigated area, there are IRS regulations that are very specific and it comes up very often.”
Cuomo’s broader investigation of benefits provided to lawyers by school districts and local governments continues.
BOCES districts were created decades ago to help the then-poorer suburban and rural districts pool resources for vocational education, special education and other programs to avoid costly duplication at each neighboring district.
Cuomo said he wants to reform a practice he said has been going on for years.
“There was a clear financial incentive for the lawyers, there may have been a financial incentive for the BOCES, and the person who was paying for this is the taxpayer,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from the state Department of Education , to which the BOCES districts report.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Thursday stripped four members of an Albany law firm of membership in the state pension system and removed service credit for a fifth after finding they were incorrectly reported as employees of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES, lining up pension benefits they were not entitled to.
DiNapoli’s office said the attorneys who were improperly awarded credit in the state retirement system are Salvatore Ferlazzo, James Girvin, Kristine Lanchantin, Jeffrey Honeywell and Kathy Ann Wolverton of Girvin & Ferlazzo. DiNapoli’s office removed five years of service credit for Ferlazzo in the retirement system and revoked the other four attorneys’ membership.