Disagreement on retirement statements apparently settled

A disagreement on the distribution of annual retirement account statements for the city of Pine Bluff’s non-uniformed employees was apparently settled in a Tuesday morning pension board meeting in the mayor’s conference room at the civic center.

Board member Ken Johnson, manager of the Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility, expressed dissatisfaction with City Clerk Loretta Whitfield’s office in its recent mailing of annual retirement statuses to his agency’s workers. Johnson said the statements were in individually sealed envelopes placed within a larger envelope.

Johnson said the statements had previously been jointly enveloped while sent to department heads, who were then able to inspect the statuses so they could quickly determine if mistakes had been made and seek to correct them in a “timely fashion.” He said other departments had received their workers’ statements in this manner.

Johnson said when the summaries are placed in individual envelopes, they can be opened only by the person whose name appears on the envelope.

Johnson said he contacted Whitfield, an ex-officio board member and the panel’s secretary, for an explanation of her office’s handling of the statements for his employees. He said she responded by obtaining a legal opinion from City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott on associated privacy issues.

Hadden-Scott confirmed the communication on Wednesday, shortly after Johnson and Whitfield said they believe the problem has been resolved.

Johnson said the board approved his request that he be provided copies of the latest summaries of PBWU workers.

Whitfield said the disagreement stems from a “misunderstanding.” She said her staff didn’t follow her instructions on the statements’ distribution.

The board — which also includes chairwoman Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, former alderman Bob Atkinson, senior Alderman Bill Brumett, Wastewater Utility Inspector and Code Specialist Jeff Gaston, Street Department Manager J.T. Golden, Grider Field Airport Manager Doug Hale and Finance Director Steve Miller — learned that the retirement fund currently stands at nearly $28 million.

The fund is managed by Simmons First Trust Company, which provided directors with a detailed status review.

Simmons’ report showed that the retirement fund portfolio value was $27,606,935 as of June 30. The fund’s estimated annual income was figured at $799,816.

The pension board is charged with determining the allocation of funds among equities, fixed-income securities, and cash and equivalents, which it may choose to change from time to time.

The board’s next quarterly meeting will be held on Oct. 22.