Russo's pension cut in half Jailed former mayor receives no credit for time spent as chief executive
by : Tom Jennemann
May 02, 2006 | 2916 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo, who is currently serving a 30-month prison sentence in North Carolina for taking thousands of dollars in bribes and unlawful cash payments, has now had his health insurance canceled and his pension benefit cut dramatically.

According to a story in the Newark Star Ledger, Russo had been collecting a pension of $3,884 per month since retiring in 2001, but those payments are now suspended. When he leaves prison, he will get his payments again, but they will be cut dramatically.

On Wednesday, the Public Employees Retirement System voted to reduce Russo's pension permanently by ruling that his two terms, or eight years from 1993 to 2001 in office, would not count toward his pension.

Now Russo only has 23 years towards retirement, instead of 31 years. Russo was a public school teacher before being elected as mayor.

This is significant because after 25 years of employment, a pensioner is eligible for health insurance for life. Because Russo now only has 23 years, his health benefits have been canceled. He can still get treatment in prison, but once outside, he will have to depend on public assistance or his family's insurance.

Had cancer For the better part of the past decade, Russo has been battling lung and brain cancer.

According to a Star Ledger story, Russo's attorney implored to board to reach an agreement that would allow Russo to retain 25 years in the retirement system and keep his health insurance.

The ruling will also hurt the Russo in the pocketbook. Because his $93,000 salary as mayor was disqualified from consideration, Russo's retirement package has to be recalculated, which means that his pension will now be based his previous salary of $51,860.

According the Department of the Treasury, when Russo turns 60 in December, he will receive $22,464 per year, instead of the $53,256 per year that he would have been eligible for before the ruling.

According to the Star Ledger story, Russo's lawyer said that they plan on appealing the ruling to the Office of Administrative Law.

Now serving Russo had entered into a plea agreement in September of 2004 in which he admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and unlawful cash payments from the principals of the Hoboken-based accounting firm Lisa and Associates.

In addition to holding city and county contracts, the firm had done business with the now-defunct Hoboken Parking Authority and the Hoboken Board of Education, whose elected board was filled with Russo-backed members for his eight years as mayor.

The federal government had investigated Russo for 10 years, and in the allocution, Russo admitted to taking at least $332,220, but his conviction was based only on actions that took place toward the end of his second term. He was defeated for a third term by Mayor David Roberts in May, 2001.

The federal counts were technically mail fraud charges associated with the bribes that Russo took. He started serving his sentence late last year.

Russo's wife, a real estate agent, lives in Church Towers, an affordable housing building. The Russos moved in decades ago when Russo's low salary as a teacher made them qualified.

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