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Erie County lawmaker resigns over pension rule but will still be in office

Lisa Chimera says she wanted to avoid the label of double-dipper by resigning her legislature seat, which she will later reclaim.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Politicians who have been known to jump between positions in order to collect extra pay or pension benefits have sparked anger among taxpayers who are technically paying them.     

So now an Erie County lawmaker says she wanted to avoid that label of double dipper by resigning her legislature seat, which she will later reclaim.

2 On Your Side spoke with Lisa Chimera and sought some clarification on this move.

Lisa Chimera says she enjoyed teaching over three decades in the Ken-Ton School District. So with her recent retirement, she will collect from the state's second-largest pension system. 

Of course, she is also the District 3 Erie County Legislator who has now also resigned that political post. Why? Chimera says she doesn't want, and legally can't, collect any county government pension, and that removes the label of a double-dipper.

Chimera told 2 On Your Side: "I will not claim any pension from Erie County, nor can I. It is the retirement law, so because I'm retired from the teacher retirement system, I can no longer be part of the any other system."

We then asked, "So if anybody raises the question, quote-unquote, double-dipping, you're saying you are not a double dipper?

Chimera replied, "I am not a double dipper. I'm a retired teacher, a proud retired teacher collecting my pension after 34 years and serving my community that, again, I loved doing."

Now a catch. While refusing that county pension and stepping down as a legislator, she will be reappointed to that legislature seat by Democratic Party leaders and majority legislature Democrats which they can technically do with a vacancy.

And where did the advice to resign come from? Chimera says, "That is the advice I received from the comptroller, that I needed to resign my position in order to stop being reported to the retirement system that the county participates in."

But is this still a gray area? For example, Merriam Webster defines double-dipping as "collecting pay from two sources at the same time or by two separate accounting methods, especially to draw a pension from one government department while working for another."

So we pointed to Chimera out that taxpayers can say that she is still basically on the public payroll, she responded, "I am not double-dipping, and what I hope they would say is that I'm a hard worker, and I hope they would say that I'm dedicated to the people in Erie County."

We are seeking clarification from the New York State Comptroller's Office.