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State tells 5 LI lawyers pensions will be revoked again

Five Long Island attorneys whose public pensions were revoked and then restored by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli have received letters detailing why the comptroller plans to revoke their pensions again.

The attorneys all are expected to request hearings to determine whether they will keep or lose their pensions, said DiNapoli's spokesman, Dennis Tompkins.

The letters offer more detail on why the comptroller's office determined that Albert D'Agostino, A. Thomas Levin, William Englander, Jerome Ehrlich and George Lipp Jr. were not public employees and were not entitled to pensions totaling more than $195,000 a year.

One attorney made "a calculated attempt" to significantly increase his pension just before retiring, and another was allowed to include the work of other lawyers as part of his compensation, according to the letters.

It is the latest twist in a saga that began last year, after Newsday exposed the practice of private attorneys being improperly reported as public employees to secure pensions and health benefits. After the stories, DiNapoli's office revoked pensions or pension credits of about 62 professionals statewide.

However, in October, the comptroller refunded nearly $500,000 to 13 attorneys after two Albany State Supreme Court rulings found they had not been given sufficient due process before their pensions were revoked. The letters are designed to provide that notice, Tompkins said.

The rulings came after D'Agostino, 65, of Valley Stream, challenged the revocation of his pension, which currently is $108,088.

He was simultaneously reported as an employee of three school districts and also got 21 years of retroactive credit for work as a Nassau County Planning Commission consultant.

The years the Lawrence school district reported on his behalf to the state retirement system started before D'Agostino retired, "suggesting a calculated attempt to maximize salary reported to significantly increase his retirement benefit," the comptroller's letter said.

D'Agostino's Albany attorney, James Roemer, did not return a call Monday.

Levin, 66, of Rockville Centre, was reported as an employee of North Hills from 1980 to 1999, according to records.

Among other things, the comptroller found that Levin was allowed to appoint attorneys from his law firm as deputy village attorneys and to include their pay in his compensation. His pension is $10,534.

Levin's attorney, Dennis Schlenker of Albany, did not return a call for comment.

Englander, 83, of Port Washington, was reported as an employee of six school districts - three of them full-time - in the same year, while also maintaining a private practice, according to records.

The comptroller found that after he retired in September 2006, Englander returned to work as a consultant with no change in duties. His pension is $27,848.

Englander's attorney, Richard Hamburger of Melville, said his client qualified as an employee and will request a hearing.

Ehrlich, 72, of Garden City, was reported as an employee of three school districts at the same time and had a private practice. His pension is $34,029, according to records.

Ehrlich's attorney, John F. Black of Albany, said the comptroller's letter was "confusing" and that he wanted a better explanation before taking action.

Lipp, 81, of Bay Shore, was reported as an employee of three school districts simultaneously, while also maintaining a private practice, records show.

His attorney, Thomas Spellman Jr. of Smithtown, did not return a call Monday.

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