JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Singing River Health System (SRHS) retirees and employees attended the Jackson County supervisors meeting Monday to get an update on what steps the board is taking to get the troubled pension fully funded again. As Patrice Clark reports, retirees hope the New Year will bring on a renewed push from the board to get answers.
"I am asking you on the first day you are sitting in those seats in 2015. It is time for you all to do something right to help the citizens of Jackson County," said Phyllis Denmark.
An emotional Denmark pleaded with supervisors Monday to make sure hundreds of retirees don't lose their retirement checks.
"Our hospital pension fund is in serious trouble and we tried to stay calm and levelheaded about this, but we keep hitting our head against a brick wall," said Denmark.
That plea was echoed by many others who were very vocal about making the hospital system accountable for stopping their contributions five years ago and never communicating it until recently to the retirees.
"How would y'all feel if it was your mother that wasn't getting her pension money or couldn't afford her medicine?" County resident Trudy Nelson asked the supervisors.
"I want my money. All the money I worked for during my 20 + years. I want all of my money," a former hospital employee said.
Supervisors said they understand these fears and point out they've called for the state auditor's investigation that is still ongoing. They also signed a 90-day memorandum of understanding with the health system to freeze the plan. They also hired an outside attorney, Billy Guice to investigate the hospital contract transactions and do a full pension review. He spoke about that progress.
"We have had a chance to review various documents given the volume of documents, and we are looking at groups who can give us information about the productivity and profitability of the hospital, and what are our alternatives to solve the problem. This must be defined. We think we are making good progress," said Guice.
Those retirees and supporters pray the progress continues and they also want the person or persons responsible for this pension debacle to be held responsible. During the meeting, supervisors agreed to reappoint Singing River Health System board of trustee, Ira Polk. His term recently expired.
Supervisors also accepted Morris Strickland's resignation. Strickland lives in Biloxi and resigned last week after learning about the residency law that required him to live in Jackson County.