Monday, October 15, 2012
Pols collect extra money for not showing up
From the NY Post:
Claiming she spent a marathon 12 consecutive days in Albany on “legislative business,” Queens Assemblywoman Vivian Cook pocketed $171 for each reported overnight stay — a total $2,197 in taxpayer money from March 21 to April 1, 2010.
The Legislature was in session just three of those days — and Cook was absent for all three, records show.
“Me? You’re kidding! No! I didn’t do that,” she told The Post.
“I don’t lie, I don’t cheat, and I don’t steal,” said Cook, whose nonprofit Rockaway Boulevard Local Development Corp. prompted an investigation for allegedly misusing taxpayer funds.
In 2010 and 2011, Cook collected a total $17,035 in daily and overnight stipends, plus other travel expenses — on top of her $79,500-a-year state salary. During the 2010 legislative session, she missed 51 meetings of the Assembly, 63 percent of the sessions.
“I was sick for a very long time,” she said of her absences, but could not recall the dates.
She’s one of scores of legislators who claim more than $10,000 a year in “per diems” — a daily payment lawmakers can collect if they sleep over in Albany or travel more than 50 miles from home on legislative business.
The sleepovers add up. The Assembly and the Senate have socked taxpayers with more than $32 million in travel-related expenses in the past decade.
In one case, Queens Assemblyman Bill Scarborough submitted vouchers claiming $825 for spending five nights in a row in Albany: Sunday, March 13 to Thursday, March 17, 2011.
That Thursday, he attended a town meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. at York College in Jamaica, Queens, according to news accounts. Jamaica is three hours from Albany by car.
“I may very well have gone to that meeting, turned around and gone back to Albany that night,” Scarborough said. “If we arrive in Albany before midnight, we’re entitled to put in for the night.”
Scarborough, chairman of the Assembly’s Small Business Committee, said he attended meetings before going home again on Friday.
He was not required to submit any hotel receipts, and told The Post it was too long ago to look for one.
“I don’t think I have to give you proof,” he said.
In 2010 and 2011, Scarborough racked up $59,085 in per diem payments, plus other travel expenses.