SCHENECTADY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In about a week, a judge could rule on a group of St. Clare’s pensioners’ motion to have their case heard in state court.
The Diocese of Albany, accused of violating its obligations when the pensioners lost some or all of their benefits, has said it will not stop the pensioners from having their case decided by the New York State Supreme Court in Schenectady County.
“I’m thrilled that, finally, after five years, they’re agreeing to something moving forward, instead of delay, delay, delay,” said Mary Hartshorne, Chair of the St. Clare’s Pension Recovery Alliance.
This, in essence, walks back the hold on the pensioners’ lawsuit from when the Diocese filed for bankruptcy in March. A committee of five St. Clare’s pensioners, not including Hartshorne, filed the motion in the bankruptcy proceeding to lift the automatic stay so it could be heard in state court where the Attorney General’s case will be moving forward.
“We are glad to learn the Diocese agrees the St. Clare’s pensioners deserve their day in court. We await the decision of the bankruptcy court, and are prepared to move forward if the stay is lifted,” said Meryl Grenadier, senior attorney at AARP Foundation.
When the Diocese announced its decision not to oppose the motion, it also addressed the distress the pensioners continue to face, writing a statement that reads in part, “we encourage anyone who may be facing such hardships to reach out, even if they are in litigation, provided that counsel would be willing. There are many wonderful and caring agencies throughout the Capital Region, including within our Diocese, and we would be happy to help make connections.”
The statement also acknowledged a letter Hartshorne wrote to Pope Francis, which stated that pensioners are struggling to pay for rent, medical bills, groceries, and in some instances, burial of loved ones.
“I was surprised. I didn’t expect that,” Hartshorne said, “but it gave me hope to think that someone was paying attention to it.”
Despite this latest sign of support from the Diocese, Hartshorne said the pensioners are skeptical.
“Some of them still say, ‘is there an angle to it?’ They aren’t trusting. I can’t blame them,” she said.
There is currently a hearing on the unsecured creditors committee’s motion to lift the stay scheduled for June 14.