Some retirees not happy with SRHS settlement - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Some retirees not happy with SRHS settlement

A settlement has been filed in the SRHS retirees' dispute and not everyone is happy about it. (Photo source: WLOX News) A settlement has been filed in the SRHS retirees' dispute and not everyone is happy about it. (Photo source: WLOX News)
JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

One year after negotiations began, a settlement has been filed in court to resolve the Singing River Health System pension fund dispute. 

Under the terms of the agreement, which must be approved by a judge, SRHS will pay $156 million into a trust. Of that, $150 million will go to the pension fund and the remaining $6 million will cover attorney fees and other expenses.

Not all retirees fall under a settlement, but there is a clause that allows the courts to force them to be included in the deal. According to court documents, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify a mandatory class, which means the court could choose to include people in the settlement even if they want to be excluded. 

If that happens, everyone will be bound by the terms. Some retirees say they're ready for a fight and that they don't want to be part of a pension settlement that is ironed out by people they don't trust. 

"As far as I'm concerned, it's just a cover up," said retiree Irby Tillman. "It's just another kick-the-can-down-the-road. The real fight is to uncover all this." 

"We want only what was promised to us and that's our benefit," said retiree Cynthia Almond. "They're trying to take it away from us in secret." 

Attorney Harvey Barton, who represents retirees currently not subject to the settlement, says he was excluded from the negotiations. 

"It's about as bad a deal as when the Indians sold Manhattan. The deal is destined to fail," said Barton. "Look at the numbers yourself. The numbers don't add up. There is not enough positive cash flow coming into this retirement plan." 

Under the settlement, a judge has the authority to force all retirees to be subject to the deal which Barton says he and fellow attorney Earl Denham take issue with. 

"I don't believe they're going to be able to certify it as a class action. They have many, many hurdles to overcome," said Barton. "Mr. Denham and I represent 200 plaintiffs. We are filing lawsuits every day. So even if they have a class action settlement, the county is still going to be having to deal with 200 lawsuits that they cannot afford, nor do they want to have to try to fight, over the next ten years of their lives.". 

"It's just very nerve racking," said Almond. "You know, life throws you punches along the way and we learn how to be strong and to bounce back from some of them, from most of them. But this is one that a lot of retirees are not bouncing back from and it's taken a toll on us." 

Some retirees said they feel like the settlement is an attempt to sweep wrongdoing under the rug and not let anybody get in trouble. 

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors met today with two new faces on the board.

Supervisors made several appointments during the meeting, including making Don Barron a Singing River Health System board trustee.  Barron is a Pascagoula native who has previously worked as vice president of Mobile Infirmary Health System.

"I have been a health administrator in the past. Because of my involvement in that what's happened in my home town, I'm worried just like everyone else," Barron said. "It's that something needs to be done and needs to be done quickly. I'm not privy to what has happened in the past but I plan to get up to speed as quickly as I can. I plan to talk to everybody -- retirees, the board, the hospital. I want to know each side of the issue, what's happening, what's going on. I want to be fair." 

The new board is already making changes. Supervisors decided to not reappoint Paula Yancey as Board Attorney and instead appointed Gary Evans to the position. 

Supervisor Randy Bosarge said he felt it was time for a change in direction. WLOX spoke to Yancey by phone, who said, "I"m taking my time and considering all of my options."

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.


 

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