New York Daily News

Legal snarl imperils 9/11 heroes' kin aid

BY MICHAEL SAUL DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

October 20, 2006—A dispute between the city and state over the wording of a new law is threatening the pension benefits of loved ones of retirees who died of Ground Zero-related illnesses.

The city contends that the law, recently signed by Gov. Pataki, provides a 100% salary benefit for civil servants' survivors - but only 50% for families of heroes who died after retiring from city jobs post-9/11.

But Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for Pataki, said the measure's intent was to provide recurring payments of 100% of the salary to the beneficiaries of those who died due to their service after the terror attacks.

The governor doesn't believe there are any technical problems with the law he signed, Rose said, adding there's no reason it can't be implemented as envisioned.

"The intent of the legislation was clear. The spirit of the law supports it, and our first responders deserve no less than 100% salary protection," Rose said.

Mayor Bloomberg said the city has a "legal obligation to follow the letter of the law." City lawyers, he argued, "can't deal with spirit or intent."

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, blasted the city's position.

"The mayor's lawyers should not be attempting to reduce this desperately needed and well-earned benefit," he said.

Late yesterday, Detectives' Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said he received commitments from both sides of the state Legislature and the governor's office to amend the law.

However, when asked to confirm whether Pataki will shepherd through a new version of the law, Rose declined to comment.

"It's sad that such a very, very serious, important issue could [become a] political football," Palladino said.