Former St. Clare’s pensioners take legal action against Diocese

Local

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A lawsuit has now been filed on behalf of the 1,100 former employees of St. Clare’s Hospital who lost their pensions.

The lawsuit against the St. Clare’s Corporation names 150 people, including the Albany Diocese, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, and former Bishop Howard Hubbard. The lawsuit calls for the employees’ pensions to be restored and the pension fund to be fully funded.

After years of frustration, the pensioners say they are now hopeful that they are one step closer to a resolution. Back in October of 2018, they were blindsided by the news that they would no longer be receiving their pensions.

“My life has been turned upside down,” said Juanita Aikens-English. “My life has been turned upside down. I’ve just been at a standstill.”

That standstill is now moving forward. At the Schenectady County Courthouse Tuesday morning, Aikens-English and several of her former St. Clare’s co-workers stood outside the front steps, as attorneys representing them, officially filed a lawsuit inside.

Attorneys say the fact that the controversy has now dragged on for nearly a year forced the to file the suit.

“Of course we hoped it wouldn’t have come to this. Of course we hoped the diocese would have stepped up and keep the promises to these people,” said Victoria Esposito of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY. “All of us were hoping that, and here we are.”

Since February, many of the 1,100 former St. Clare’s employees have seen their pension funds reduced or stopped altogether, making it difficult for them to get by.

“We believe they are entitled to be made whole. And we will fight to ensure that happens,” said David Pratt, another attorney representing former St. Clare’s employees. “No one says it’s going to be quick or easy, but filling a lawsuit is an important first step.”

NEWS10 ABC reached out to the Catholic Dioceses of Albany who responded with a statement:

“We have not yet seen the lawsuit, so we can’t comment on it. However, we respect the rights of pensioners to do what they feel is necessary to secure recovery of their lost benefits. Bishop Scharfenberger, as a board member, wants to do whatever he can to assist that effort. As we’ve said previously, the Diocese of Albany never managed the St. Clare’s pension fund. St. Clare’s is a separate corporation; its pension was managed by the corporation, not by the diocese.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James is launching a separate forensic investigation into the case. But pensionsers say the lawsuit makes them feel optimistic.

“It makes me feel somebody is gonna listen to us,” said Aikens-English. “And I’m praying. I prayed before we started and like I said, I think God is on our side.”

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