A court ruling has blocked the dissolution of the St. Clare’s Hospital pension fund, which is being investigated by New York state for eliminating or reducing pension payments for nearly 1,100 retirees last year.
The decision allows state Attorney General Letitia James to dismiss the pension fund’s board president and attorney, according to the office of New York Sen. Jim Tedisco, citing the attorney general’s office last week.
That means St. Clare’s pensioners, who were barred from a key hearing by the board, now have a seat at the table. It also gives the attorney general access to more than 100 new pieces of evidence.
“This is the first step in getting to the bottom of what happened to the pension fund the retirees worked so hard for so we can help find a way to make them whole,” Tedisco, a Republican, said in a statement.
In December, the senator requested that the attorney general’s office investigate the pension plan fiasco after nearly 1,100 former health care professionals in Schenectady lost their benefit payments.
St. Clare’s Hospital, which was closed more than a decade ago by the state and absorbed into the Ellis Medicine health care system, was discovered to be shockingly underfunded.
At the time of its closure, the state paid $58.7 million for transition costs, including $28 million to cover the pension fund.
But in December, an anonymous source disclosed to Tedisco that the hospital actually required $47 million to cover its pension liabilities.
All parties involved in the closure in 2006 were notified of the gap in funding, according to the senator’s note, including the Health Department, Dormitory Authority, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
But freedom of information requests dispatched to the state departments returned redacted documents, the senator said.
“Why is there a $19 million discrepancy between the 2006 actuarial analysis and the $28 million the state paid to the pension fund in 2008?” read a letter last year from the senator to James.
The Health Department, Dormitory Authority, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany did not immediately return requests for comment.
Participants of the St. Clare’s pension fund are not guaranteed benefits because of a religious exemption in federal law.