CLIFTON PARK — Two months after state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, secured a commitment from Gov. Kathy Hochul at her 2023 State of the State address to meet with pensioners from the former St. Clare’s Hospital, a meeting was held on Tuesday with representatives from the Governor’s Office but without Hochul.
Tedisco and Mary Hartshorne, chairwoman of the St. Clare’s Hospital Recovery Alliance, met with representatives from Hochul’s office on Tuesday morning to discuss the 1,100 former St. Clare’s employees who lost all or some of their benefits when their pension plan was terminated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in February 2019.
In a press conference at his Clifton Park office following an Albany meeting with Chatodd Floyd, the governor’s deputy secretary of legislative affairs and policy, and Dave Perino, Hochul’s assistant counsel, Tedisco and Hartshorne said they are still determined to fight for the pensioners despite their disappointment in not meeting with Hochul directly.
“We’re disappointed that the governor wasn’t able to suggest that this could rise up to five minutes with Mary Hartshorne, the president of 1,100 St. Clare’s pensioners to discuss this with her,” Tedisco said. “A big part of what we need for these pensioners is to bolster them up.”
While the meeting with the governor’s representatives ended without a commitment for a future in-person meeting with Hochul, Tedisco said inroads were still made at the meeting.
“I asked if we could have a conduit that Mary [Hartshorne] could continue to contact when she has some information pertinent for the governor, positive or negative,” Tedisco said following the press event. “They agreed to that. So that’s a step closer I think, having a person you can continue to contact. This was an individual meeting and a one-time thing. So I think now she [Hartshorne] can continue to call and I’m sure when she calls she’ll continue to say, ‘Do you think the governor might have two and half minutes to give us some time?’ We’re getting closer to the governor, so I think this was a step forward.”
Hartshorne, a registered ultrasound tech who began working at the now-closed St. Clare’s in 1968, said she was grateful for the Tuesday meeting but was disappointed that Hochul did not make even a brief appearance during the group’s session.
“If Kathy Hochul doesn’t want to speak with us, that’s fine,” she said. “But someone made us feel important and we’re good, decent people who took the best care of anyone who came into our hospital. And there’s no reason we should be treated like this.”
In May 2022, state Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the diocese, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger; his predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, The Very Rev. David LeFort, vicar general; the St. Clare’s Corporation, successor entity to the hospital that merged in 2008 into what is now Ellis Medicine; and Joseph Pofit.
The suit alleges that the defendants violated their fiduciary and legal obligations under state law. A 2019 lawsuit filed by the AARP Foundation representing the pensioners has since merged with the attorney general’s suit.
During the Tuesday afternoon press conference Tedisco said he was disappointed that the meeting with Hochul’s representatives took two months to schedule after the governor told Tedisco before the State of the State address on Jan. 10 that she would meet to discuss the issue.
Hartshorne said that the pensioners have received a more receptive response from Hochul’s office than former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“These people did step up,” she said of Hochul’s representatives. “They were on time and they gave us 30 minutes. I really was impressed with that.”
Tedisco said that appealing to the Governor’s Office directly could provide another avenue to get the issue resolved while the petitioners wait for the lawsuit to make its way through the court system.
“It’s about connections,” Tedisco said following the press conference. “[Hochul is] the highest elected official in the state of New York. People want to interact with her and she may be able to interact with the diocese. She may be able to garner an agreement where because the governor is involved, they say, ‘Let’s get together and solve this with a settlement.’ She may have some other ideas that she could extend. Most importantly, she could bolster the efforts to keep going and go forward and really find an answer to this. There’s no downside in having the governor on your side in New York state.”
Tedisco said the next step for the pensioners is to keep the issue in the public eye, with the potential of securing state funding for the pensioners.
“I’ve seen New York state provide funding for things that would boggle your mind,” he said. “I’ve seen them help individuals who are part of the family of New York state and through no fault of their own were in destitute situations just like Mary [Hartshorne] and those 1,110 pensioners. In many occasions they’ve risen to the occasion.”
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Scary situation i hope the law that allowed this to happen is changed. I also hope someone is advising The Ellis medicine pension plan participants before the church gets its hands on that place and does the same thing