Long Island school-district attorneys

by Walter Olson on February 15, 2008

Looks like some have found ways to game the state’s employment rules:

Five Long Island school districts falsely reported to the state that a part-time private attorney was a full-time employee in each district, enabling him to earn a public pension of nearly $62,000 and health benefits for life.

At the same time, the districts paid his law firm more than $2.5 million in fees, records show.

The attorney, Lawrence W. Reich, was listed as full time by five different school districts at once – Baldwin, Copiague, East Meadow, Bellmore-Merrick High School and Harborfields, according to records supplied by the New York State comptroller’s office. In 2000, for example, he was credited with working 1,271 days in one year. The year before, he was credited with working 1,286 days….

Under Internal Revenue Service rules, a person cannot be paid both as an independent contractor and employee for the same job.

“Clearly, it’s an attempt to manipulate the system so that a person can receive Cadillac fringe benefits that a person in the private sector would otherwise not be entitled to,” said Paul Sabatino, a municipal lawyer who is also former Suffolk chief deputy county executive. …

“I followed essentially a practice that was very common among my colleagues in the industry,” [Reich] said.

(Sandra Peddie, “Five districts falsely reported lawyer job status”, Newsday, Feb. 15).