JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - One of the former high ranking Singing River Health System officials that worked for the hospital when the pension troubles began is speaking out. Monday, Stephanie Barnes Taylor met with supervisors for several hours to reveal what she knew about the retirement pot depleting, and to address accusations that she voted to stop the contributions.
"I don't have anything to hide," Taylor said. "I was on the retirement board and served as an employee, so I was aware of how the retirement plans itself was managed. What I wasn't aware of was the financial issues that were disclosed in November of 2013."
Taylor is talking about the $88 million shortfall the hospital officials announced before they revealed that they had stopped contributing to the employees' and retirees' pension plan back in 2009 without telling them.
Taylor claims even in her top spot, she never voted to cut off the retirement payments. She said that's the CEO or the board of trustees' call.
"So to answer your question regarding if I knew that there were financial issues of this magnitude that would impact the finances of retirement plan, no, I didn't," Taylor said.
When asked did she ever speak up about any problems at the hospital, Taylor said, "Those things that I was aware of I did address appropriately to the audit compliance committee, the board of trustees and my position always allowed me direct access to the board. Where I knew things, I went directly to the former CEO. And not just for this issue, but over my entire career. If I felt if there was something that needed to be addressed from a compliance or legal perspective, it was always appropriately addressed. With this situation as things came to light, as I had discussions with the board or with current CEO, those actions were appropriately taken."
Supervisors said the meeting with Taylor answered a lot of their lingering concerns. The major one, where did the most of millions go once the hospital stopped payment?
"The hospital had decided it wanted to do other things, so it stopped contributing the retirement in an effort to make other types of construction type of investments and that was the sort of the explanation," Supervisor Melton Harris said.
After hearing that news, Board President Troy Ross said supervisors are now sending a letter to former hospital system CEO Chris Anderson this week urging him to come and talk to them to help clear up pension mess.
"See if we can put the puzzle together and find out what happened, how it happened, and if anyone is to blame and what recourse should be," Supervisor Troy Ross said.