SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (WTEN) — New York Attorney General Letitia James said her office has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Albany. This lawsuit comes after former St. Clare’s workers had their pension benefits terminated in 2018.
Attorney General James said the Diocese failed to contribute to the pension plans, which led to the pensions being underfunded by $43 million. James said the Diocese also filed false IRS forms about the fund.
“These former hospital workers nobly served their community and cared for the sick, elderly, and vulnerable. But when they retired, they were left with nothing,” said Attorney General James. “No one should ever have to deal with the financial and emotional trauma of losing the resources they were counting on to survive. With this action, we’re standing up for New Yorkers who deserve to retire with dignity, and I will do everything in my power to make sure they get the pension benefits they’re owed.”
St. Clare’s Hospital closed over a decade ago and its operations were taken over by Ellis Medicine. At that point, St. Clare’s Corporation had run out of money and could not cover the pension fund’s costs. The St. Clare’s Corporation was a not-for-profit corporation created by the Diocese to oversee operations of the hospital.
The state, which already contributed $28.5 million to cover pension liabilities, says the mismanagement of the pension fund is the responsibility of the Diocese, and they should fund their fair share.
James made the announcement outside Ellis Health Center in Schenectady. Elected officials such as Representative Paul Tonko, Senator Jim Tedisco, and Assemblymember Angelo Santatbarbara spoke, as well as some of the St. Clare’s pensioners who have been impacted.
“I don’t even know how to say it, except, thank you to everyone who is so kind and helping us through this. I don’t know what else to say,” Mary Hartshorne, Chair of the St. Clare’s Pension Recovery Alliance said through tears, “thank you so much. This is going to make such a difference.”
The Diocese of Albany released the following statement:
We are sympathetic to the plight of the St. Clare’s pensioners and want to see these hardships resolved as soon as possible. We respectfully disagree with the attorney general’s decision to file this lawsuit. We have been in litigation more than two years with the attorney general and the other parties. There are two lawsuits pending involving St. Clare’s before the court and there have been multiple depositions with substantial, exhaustive discovery regarding what has been alleged. This lawsuit seeks to replicate the same claims and the same allegations that are in the lawsuits currently pending before the court. Today’s announcement does not raise any new issues. It will only lead to more protracted proceedings which will further delay resolution of the case.Diocese of Albany
At the end of last year, the state Supreme Court denied a request from the diocese to throw out the case brought against them by the AARP Foundation and others, on behalf of the pensioners.
“We are looking at a trial more like early next year, at this point,” said Dara Smith, Senior Attorney for the AARP Foundation. “A lot has to happen before then. We’ve got to make sure we have all the information we need, particularly from the diocese, who we’re still trying to get documents from.”
You can watch the full press conference in the player below: