By LAURA NAHMIAS, MICHAEL GARTLAND and SUSAN EDELMAN
Last Updated: 8:26 AM, October 21, 2012
Posted: 12:52 AM, October 21, 2012When politicians snooze, taxpayers don’t just lose — their cash goes to support legislators’ real-estate investments.
New York lawmakers who sleep over in their own Albany-area second homes rake in $165 a night if they claim they must stay over for official business.
Under the Legislature’s loose “per diem” reimbursement system — for which no receipts or other proof are required — Assembly members and state senators who own houses or condos near the Capitol collect the same payments as those who stay in hotels.
Those who have bought their own pads say it’s only fair.
Taxpayer support for their real-estate investments is just one more item in legislators’ goodie bag — and has helped boost Assembly and Senate travel and per-diem expenses to more than $32 million over the last decade.
Gov. Cuomo may push to end the per diems in return for a legislative pay raise, aides say.
Farrell, who took office in 1974 and is the former Manhattan Democratic leader, denies his three-family Albany house is an investment.
“It’s a place to hang my suits, lay my head at night, and eat breakfast,” he said.
The daughter of a friend who co-owns the house lives there, and Farrell uses the basement as a campaign headquarters.
He collected a total $58,061 in state-paid per diems in 2010 and 2011, records show.
“We’re entitled to it if we sleep in the car or on the floor in the office. The per diems pay for the house. I wouldn’t have or want that house if I wasn’t an assemblyman. The damn house costs me money,” Farrell said.
Others also deny a profit motive.
“I’m not in the business of collecting per diems to supplement my income,” said Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Queens), who claimed a total $32,434 in stipends in 2010 and 2011.
Since 2003, he has owned a two-family house near the Capitol worth about $195,000. He rented out each unit for $800 a month and stayed in hotels while in Albany on legislative duties.
But last year a deal to sell the house collapsed, and DenDekker couldn’t find a second tenant. So he moved in Jan. 1 for the Legislative session.
“I’d rather get year-round income off the apartment,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) uses an Albany condo his wife bought before their marriage. He collected $26,061 in per diems in 2010 and 2011.
The per diems cover costs such as condo dues, phone and hot-water bills, said his spokesman Scott Reif.
Assemblyman Phil Boyle (R-Long Island) said he “schlepped suits back and forth” for nine years before paying cash in 2006 for a $350,000 three-bedroom in Albany. Boyle, who collected $44,964 in per diems in 2010 and 2011, said he pays $7,000 a year in taxes on the house.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), elected in 2000, said he recently sold a house valued at $190,000 in adjacent Rensselaer County, He bought it 25 years ago for vacations, then rentals.
When in Albany, he always stays in hotels or with family, said Smith, who collected $38,139 in per diems in 2010 and 2011.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli revealed a broad probe into the per-diem payouts last week after The Post reported some questionable vouchers.
Government watchdogs say the per diems are open to abuse.
“It’s an honor system. That’s the problem,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “There’s a lack of oversight and verification.”
The per diems -- $165 for sleeping over, which covers food and lodging, and $61 without spending the night -- are paid any day of the week, even when the Legislature is not in session. Mileage, tolls and transit fares are also reimbursed.
In one week alone, The Post found, Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Queens) pocketed $2,197 for claiming she spent 12 consecutive nights on “legislative business.” The Assembly was in session three of those days and Cook was absent for all three.
Brooklyn Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., who is under indictment, claimed multiple per diems on days he met with undercover FBI agents in Brooklyn and Manhattan to discuss bribes, records show.