I am a former employee of Singing River Health System that is vested in the pension plan. Three thousand plus pension plan enrollees and I need help. Why you may ask? Because the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi, Jim Hood, is allowing our employer and holder of our retirement fund to rob us of our retirement and the cover up of the missing $150 million dollars that should have been deposited into the pension trust fund between 2009 – 2014.
Now we are all losing our retirement. The hospital is county owned and the second largest employer in the Jackson County Mississippi. SRHS has “flipped” an attorney with 17 plan participates into forcing a class action suit on us that has the effect of giving the people who spent or took our retirement a get out of jail free card, to never be charged for any wrong doing. This is the crime! The hospital administrator and the County have called all their favors in and apparently, the Attorney General owed someone a favor. This is dirty politics at its best.
Let me explain the “flipped”. A law firm representing 17 clients was chosen by Singing River Health System and various judges in the county to be the law firm to represent all pension participants even though one group of us, 261 strong, have our own attorneys who have actively fought for us in State Court, unlike the chosen firm. We are not being properly represented by this ‘chosen’ firm. The ‘chosen’ firm sold out the retirees in exchange for a promised $6.5 million attorney fee from Singing River Hospital System approved by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.
This scandal began long ago, in the early 1980s when Singing River Health System (the Jackson County owned hospital) opted out of PERS and began their own pension plan. Employees funded the plan at 3% of their paycheck and after vesting (10 years of full-time employment) they were guaranteed a pension for life. Upon their death, they could elect to have a spousal beneficiary should they decide to only take 80% at the time of their retirement, and many did in order to protect their spouses.
Singing River Health System was supposed to contribute to the Plan “from time to time” in an amount determined by the actuaries as to what was needed to keep the Plan solvent. In 2009, Singing River Health System quit funding the Plan altogether. To hide that fact, they mailed each participant an individualized beautiful printed glossy pamphlet each year showing in what great shape their Plan was and how much the hospital “contributed for that year”. These so called account statements were nothing but a pack of lies.
In a secret meeting of the Board of Trustees for the pension plan in October 2014, they decided to terminate the Plan and just wipe the debt off the board. A whistle blower contact an attorney named Harvey Barton who through a series of Temporary Restraining Orders in Jackson County Chancery Court, prevented them from signing the minutes in order to officially terminate the plan. Since then, it has been even more of a fiasco. The Hospital System never told us they had stopped contributing to the plan, yet they continued to take our money from our paychecks.
This story involves secret meetings with judges and counsel and special fiduciaries where we have them meeting ON FILM. We had to go to the Mississippi Supreme Court to have them recused. It appears financial documents were shredded and side agreements made that resulted in a forced settlement which allows the county (which owns the hospital) to escape ALL LIABILITY and be released from everything based upon a “promise” that the hospital will pay back into the fund the contributions they should have made to begin with. Now, how does this leave the pensioners? In pretty bad shape if the settlement goes through as they have no legal recourse to try to recoup money from other entities because most everyone is “released” in the settlement. Also, there is certain to be a reduction in benefits- up to 60% and who knows for how long.
There is currently no money going into the Plan, as they froze it back in 2014. The corruption from the County officials to the Board of Trustees, to the directors of the hospital, to the Class Counsel who were guaranteed their fees up front is disgusting. We are fighting for the Pensioners to get everything promised to them in their contract with the hospital- 100% pension for life. Without that, many will lose their homes, their ability to pay for life sustaining medication and food. This is a 401(a)-governmental plan not protected by ERISA, therefore there is little to no protection. If this is settled and made into a legal standard, such could create a blueprint for all other non-ERISA plans to wipe out the debt they may have for their pension and dissolve their contractual obligations with the Plan Participants.
Currently we are fighting battles in Jackson County Chancery Court, we have a “fairness hearing” scheduled in January, 2018 which is the result of a 5th Circuit appeal mandate and we just submitted an Application for Stay to the United States Supreme Court as well as a Petition for Writ of Certiorari earlier last week.
This case has the potential to change every bit of 401(a) pension debt across the nation as we know it, and allows anyone at any time to breach the contract with their participants without repercussions. Please reach out if you would like for me to elaborate any further or to set up a time to talk.
We have a webpage on Facebook called SRHS Hopes, a petition at Change.org, and a group of 261 of us with two attorneys fighting like hell to stop them while we are praying and hoping that a full and true investigation into the false account statements is opened.
I have called the FBI, emailed Congressman Palazzo, the Federal Attorney General, and Attorney General Hood’s office and so far, nothing. We need someone to help us by going public so that the FBI will step in and do their job.
Thank you for any attention you can help us bring to this case. You can contact me at 228-297-9446 or Yulanda Drake 228-369-0195 or Mr. Harvey Barton, our attorney 228-769-2070. He is ready and willing to talk and has all documentation available.
We have more documentation than you can read on this case with our attorney. Thank you for helping us find someone to look into this and get the word out before many are left without nothing.