Judge: County will fight retirement system award

Jefferson County will dispute a decision by the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System to award $88,000 in benefits to a man who county officials say was never a county employee.

After a meeting of the county Quorum Court on Monday night, County Judge Dutch King said the board has taken the money from the state’s General Revenue Turnback fund, a pool of money collected from tax revenue from all 75 counties, and Jefferson County will have to repay the $88.000 to the pool at a rate of $600 per month for the next 13 years.

“In my opinion we’ve been tried, convicted and sentenced without a trial,” King said of the retirement system’s decision.

At issue is a claim by the retirement system involving J. Y. Williams, who was director of community development from 1980 to 1986, according to a letter from Little Rock attorney Marion A. Humphrey, who represents Williams.

In that letter, Humphries included a printout indicating Williams was the director of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, as well as a letter sent to the county from the retirement system in 2006 requesting clarification of Williams’ employment status. The letter and information packet also contained an extract of social security administration records showing Williams listed as am employee of Jefferson County from 1980 to 1986.

In June, former County Attorney Terry Wynne told members of the county’s legislative body that County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson had found no records indicating that Williams worked for the county during the period of time the retirement system said he did

Wynne said the only records Johnson located were Social Security records, the same records that Humphrey enclosed in his packet of information, and Wynne said Williams actually worked for the county Economic Development Commission, not the county itself.

On Monday, King said the county has retained an attorney and is prepared to fight the retirement system’s decision, which King was notified of earlier in the day.

In answer to a question from Justice of the Peace Conley Byrd, King said the funds have already been put into Williams’ retirement account.

“They knew we were contesting it and they put the money into his retirement anyway,” King said.

During the regular meeting of the Quorum Court, a $15,000 supplemental appropriation to cover expenses for the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office for the rest of the year was approved without dissent.

In a letter to King and members of the Quorum Court, Coroner Chad Kelley said the funds were needed for general supplies including body bags, heavy duty latex gloves, cooler expenses, fuel, oil and vehicle maintenance, as well as mobile phones, pagers, access to the Internet and a monthly alarm fee for the office.

Also approved was a $10,700 appropriation to set a 2013 budget using a grant from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office designated as the Voting System Grant Fund.

Justices of the Peace Reginald Adams, Morris Caldwell and Lloyd Franklin III were absent Monday.