November 29, 2012

Kennebec County files appeal in retirement case

State ruled 31 cumulative years of retirement benefits were denied to three employees; would cost county $250,000 if upheld, lawyer claims

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- A court appeal pitting Kennebec County against the state retirement system could cost the county $250,000.

That's the estimate offered by the county's attorney, Warren Shay, in documents filed in an appeal in Kennebec County Superior Court.

The county appealed a decision of the state's Maine Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees, which determined that the county was required to offer membership in the state system to three employees and failed to do so for a total of 31 years between the employees. The county is responsible for past contributions and interest if those employees choose to join, the retirement system contends.

The employees, Diana York and James Saucier and recent retiree Carol Royer, are represented by attorney Walter McKee.

"When they finally got to present their testimony, they said they were not told they had the opportunity to join the state system," McKee said Thursday. "They said, 'If we had been told, we would have joined.'"

The pending court appeal, which was filed on the county's behalf in August by Shay, says the county trustees' decision, signed by chairman Peter M. Leslie, should be reversed.

The county says the employees were told they could join the state retirement system initially and on a number of subsequent occasions, so the county should not be penalized for their nonenrollment. Shay says two of the three employees opted for private retirement insurance plans.

Since 1982, Kennebec County employees have had the option to join the state's retirement system, according to filings in the case. And the three employees all joined it by 2010.

The state retirement system is represented by Assistant Attorney General James Bowie.

Oral arguments in the appeal were set for Thursday in Kennebec County Superior Court; however, the judge recused herself because of a conflict. The case is expected to be rescheduled shortly in front of a different judge.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

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