State places responsibility on Diocese for pension problems

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St. Clare's Hospital

St. Clare’s Hospital

More than 1,000 people, who are former employees of St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady, recently found out they would not be receiving their full pensions.

Now, people like Fred Ziemann and Patty Pangburn are hoping state officials can step in and help.

“The premise was of course the church won’t cheat you. And that’s—here it is,” said Ziemann.

“I think the Diocese and the state of New York could help us out,” said Pangburn.

However, both the state and the Diocese say the safety of these pensions is not their responsibility.

The New York State Department of Health placing blame on the Albany Diocese, saying in a statement:

“Unlike others, the owners of this hospital specifically chose not to contribute to the pension guarantee fund on behalf of its workers.  The State stepped in to help salvage workers’ retirement and contributed $50 million with $28.5 million earmarked to support the workers’ pension liabilities. The mismanagement of the pension fund is the responsibility of the Diocese, and they should fund their fair share.”

The Diocese responding with this statement:

“The collapse of the St. Clare’s Corporation pension is a tragedy, and creative solutions should be sought to assist pensioners during this challenging time. However, the Department of Health is misinformed. The management of St. Clare’s funds — pension and otherwise — was always the responsibility of the St. Clare’s Corporation, under the direction of its president and fiscal officers. The diocese was never the owner or manager of the hospital or its pension fund.

“As shepherd of the Diocese of Albany, Bishop Scharfenberger has offered to facilitate — and is in the process of developing — an opportunity for a conversation among stakeholders to surface ideas and provide a forum for discussion in an effort to give a voice to those who feel they have not been heard.”

Joseph Pofit has been acting as the spokesperson for the St. Clare’s Corporation throughout the discussion of these pension issues and sent a statement saying:

St. Clare’s Hospital was solely responsible for its pension plan.   Neither the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany nor any other organization was responsible for the pension plan.  Because St. Clare’s Hospital cared for many uninsured and under-insured patients, it did not have the financial resources to make the necessary contributions to the pension plan for many years.  St. Clare’s maintained (and continues to maintain) the assets in separate pension trust that was professionally managed at all times.

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