$$ for nothing at WTC fund

By Susan Edelman New York Post

The city is sitting on a 9/11 nest egg of more than $350 million.

The WTC Captive Insurance Co., a nonprofit given $1 billion from Congress to cover claims from the Ground Zero cleanup, has disposed of more than 12,000 suits, and few — if any — are left in court, officials say.

But the entity — governed by Mayor Bloomberg appointees — still had $356.8 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, records show. Under a federal grant, the cryptic organization can stay in business until 2029 to defend the city against suits.

Experts expect a future wave of 9/11 responders to come down with cancers that take up to 20 years to develop, such as asbestos-related mesothelioma.

But critics say WTC Captive administrators — who in the past have spent lavishly, such as a $1,252 a dinner for eight at Giovanni Ristorante after a court hearing — should curb its expenses to avoid eating away at the balance.

“With no current claims pending, expenses shouldn’t be too high, taking away from those who may get sick in the future,” Sen. Chuck Schumer told The Post. “We should be saving as much as possible, not spending the money on bureaucracy.”

Expenses cited by the WTC Captive include:

* President and CEO Christine LaSala’s $234,500 annual salary, plus fringe benefits. After The Post exposed her prior $350,000-a-year salary, she took a cut in 2007.

* $1.56 million in staff salaries, health and pension benefits last year, including LaSala’s.

* Operating expenses came to $5.2 million last year with fees for management consultants, actuaries, accountants and corporate lawyers.

* High-priced defense lawyers, who gobbled another $30.7 million in 2012.

The group recently paid $2.7 million to settle 11 remaining suits by ill 9/11 workers. That came after the city wrapped up a $677 million mass settlement with more than 10,000 workers. Others chose to drop suits to file claims under the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which Congress reopened in 2011.

John Feal, an advocate for 9/11 responders, called for belt-tightening.

“Everybody’s living under budget cuts and austerity. Is a CEO even needed? That seems like an exorbitant salary for someone with little to do,” Feal said. “Wasting that $356 million is taking food off the table from people who are going to need it.”

Through a p.r. firm, WTC Captive officials refused to answer questions.

The city Law Department has gotten $30 million from the WTC Captive for legal work. “Right now, it is unclear whether there will be additional suits,” said WTC chief Kenneth Becker.

Under the law, he said, any money left unspent after the WTC Captive closes will go to the city to recoup other 9/11-related losses.

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