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The New York Times reported last week that four Republican State Senators, including two Senators who represent portions of Tompkins County, were incorrectly identified as Senate committee chairs last March in documents to the Senate payroll staff that requested pretax payments of $15,000 for Tom O’Mara and $18,000 for Patrick M. Gallivan. According to the Comptroller's office stipends were paid in March and April. Senator Pamela Helming and Patty Ritchie were also identified as committee chairs.

"I have not, and will not, accept any payment for my work as Vice Chair of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction committee," Helming said in a statement Monday. "My office is in the process of returning these uncashed checks to the taxpayers of our state."

According to the Times article, committee chairs are eligible to receive extra pay, but vice chairs and other members are not. By New York State law legislators may only receive one such stipend, even if they chair more than one committee. The payments range between 9,000 and $34,000 per year. The documents were emails obtained through a FOIL request.

O'Mara chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee, but receives a higher stipend for the Transportation Committee he vice-chairs. He says that he simply accepted that the stipend was legitimate when he was told of the stipend by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

"When your boss, so to speak ,comes to you and says, 'you're getting raise'," O'Mara reportedly said. " I said 'thank you'."

Democrats Diane J. Savino, Jose R. Peralta, and David J. Valesky were also wrongly identified as committee chairs eligible for a stipend, when in fact they serve as vice chairs for their committees.