A group of former hospital employees and advocate organizations have filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, N.Y., and St. Clare's Corp., seeking damages against the corporation for its failure to pay pension benefits.
The suit, filed on Tuesday at Schenectady County, N.Y., Supreme Court by the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, AARP Foundation, Legal Services of NYC/Brooklyn Legal Services, among others, says the St. Clare's Corp. told 1,100 former St. Clare's Hospital employees in October that most of them would receive either drastically reduced pension benefits or no benefits at all.
The former employees were with St. Clare's Hospital before it closed in June 2008, according to the filing, and the St. Clare's Hospital Retirement Income Plan Trust was created in 2009 to hold plan assets on behalf of participants. Directors of the non-profit St. Clare's Corp. filed a petition for dissolution in March of this year, claiming that there was "no likelihood that the required financial resources" to pay the $53 million in pension obligations would materialize, the filing says.
"My clients, like so many other people, gladly gave decades of their lives to St. Clare's Hospital and to caring for others," said Victoria M. Esposito, advocacy coordinator at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, in a news release. "St. Clare's and the diocese promised to take care of my clients when they were no longer able to work. They broke that promise. My clients are not asking for charity. They are not asking for a handout. They are asking for the pensions that they earned."
Mary DeTurris Poust, spokeswoman at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, said the diocese had not yet seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment on it.
"However, we respect the rights of pensioners to do what they feel is necessary to secure recovery of their lost benefits," she said in an email. "Bishop Scharfenberger, as a board member, wants to do whatever he can to assist that effort. As we've said previously, the Diocese of Albany never managed the St. Clare's pension fund. St. Clare's is a separate corporation; its pension was managed by the corporation, not by the diocese."
St. Clare's Corp. officials could not be reached to provide further information.