by Max Brantley
Uh huh. Not a bit of politics involved if George Hopkins at the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System pulls back from trying to reclaim possibly $10 million in retirement benefits paid improperly to veteran public school employees who took their retirement pensions to state colleges and universities that then paid them excessively for new jobs on top of pensions. Do you have any idea how big a howl these politically connected school people can make?
Rules were clear. Law was clear. A previous retirement director decided to personally waive the law. (How he found time in the middle of smelly, improvident real estate transactions and golfing junkets paid by system vendors is a mystery.)
But Gov. Mike Beebe says he doesn't think politics are involved just because Hopkins is now suggesting he might not go after the illegal double-dippers. Ignorance of the law is an excuse, Counselor Beebe? ( I, for one, don't believe the lame alibi that all the dippers didn't know about the retirement offset when they took college jobs.)
Maybe there's a taxpayer suit here for Gene Sayre. If we hadn't paid these improper benefits, the state wouldn't have had to contribute quite as much to the pension fund. Is that an illegal exaction? And, hey, it's OK if Beebe and Hopkins forgive the beneficiaries and get the $10 million from the past ATRS director.