by Max Brantley
From today's Hot Springs Sentinel Record:
Three elected officials under investigation by the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System continued to sign official forms during a 90-day period in which they removed themselves from the county payroll, reportedly to file for retirement benefits.
Those actions could force them to forfeit their benefits, APERS says.
Hell, why should they pay anything back? Can't they just claim they didn't know better, like the Teacher Retirement System double dippers who made off with maybe $10 million in illegal overpayments?
Great column by Meredith Oakley today in D-G about this outrage. If you don't know, the serious pressure that only school administrators can muster has forced both ATRS director George Hopkins and Gov. Mike Beebe to back off reclaiming wrongfully paid pensions.
Does the Social Security Administration or IRS forgive mistakes? You know the answer.
Is it sufficient excuse to say a former retirement system director waived a law he wasn't empowered to waive? You know the answer.
Have taxpayers been illegally exacted by a reduction in system reserves, an amount taxpayers are OBLIGATED to pay to retirees? I'd like to see a judge tee up the question.
Is it "fair" -- George Hopkins' word -- to forgive $10 million in illegal payments to school administrators (many of whom certainly knew better and were in on the illegal "waiver") while not making refunds to school retirees who followed the law and had pension benefits reduced by salaries in new jobs as the law required? I like the chances for a good court ruling on that. And since when, George, do you not seek legal clarification on an issue of clear controversy and clear contravention of the law because you "might" lose?
This is a political scandal. If Mike Beebe doesn't put a stop to the coverup, he owns it. (And I'll be watching Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and whether he decides public employees who receive benefits paid from taxpayer contributions should be subject to the FOI? And whether he thinks a retirement law is meant to be followed or can be ignored if enough years of ignoring it go by.)