Oyster Bay rehires 3 pension recipients

Oyster Bay Town Hall. (March 26, 2012)

Oyster Bay Town Hall. (March 26, 2012) (Credit: Nicole Bartoline)

The three highest earners of a batch of Oyster Bay Town employees who last year accepted buyouts have been plucked from retirement to again lead their departments, town officials confirmed.

James Byrne, commissioner of the parks department; Richard Betz, commissioner of the highway and public works departments; and James Moriarty, a public information officer, were rehired between late December and Tuesday as part-timers, officials said.

Each is earning $30,000 annually, the maximum they may receive under state law without forfeiting their pensions, officials said. They have no contract or set term, officials said.

Byrne, Betz and Moriarty's annual pensions are $107,340, $97,387 and $99,188, respectively, according to the state.

Democratic critics of the Republican town leadership called the rehires an "abuse of the pension system."

But Town Attorney and Deputy Supervisor Leonard Genova said the rehires are a good deal.

"We're getting that institutional knowledge for a fraction of what we had paid prior," he said. "I really think that's best for the municipality."

Byrne, Betz and Moriarty earned full-time salaries of $150,125, $136,303 and $142,211, respectively, before they retired in August and September, records show. They together received $93,000 in town retirement incentives, records show.

"In the old days, they used to call it double-dipping," Nassau Democratic Committee chairman Jay Jacobs said. "Pensions are supposed to be used when someone actually retires."

The three will be assuming their former duties as well as "mentoring some of the deputies in the next year or two to really get them ready to take over the reins," Genova said.

Byrne and Betz are using the town-issued vehicles they had previously, officials said. The town has no plans to rehire other retirees, officials said.

The rehires come amid financial troubles for the town that led to 92 incentivized retirements and the threat of about 200 layoffs. The staff cuts were averted after the 1,100-member local union agreed in December to contract concessions.

The town faces about $828 million in overall debt, a recent borrowing document shows.

Jacobs argued that just because the rehires are legal doesn't mean they're ethical. "It's the Republican machine merry-go-round," he said. "The only ones who ever get thrown off are the taxpayers."

Civil Service Employees Association Local 881 president Robert Rauff Jr., who fought layoffs and negotiated for months with the town on concessions, declined to comment.

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