Do we have a true settlement or a glorified cramdown on the SRHS pension crisis? Before I get to a few numbers and highlight the court case that I think ultimately controls the proper resolution of this disaster, we need to take a look at the person that Special Master Britt Singletary tasked about a month ago with overseeing the pension plan go forward, former Department of Public Safety Director Steve Simpson.
After nearly a year long fight to get the pension benefits they were promised, Tuesday a judge told Singing River Health System retirees they should sleep restfully from now on. Special Master Britt Singletary appointed an independent trustee, former Circuit Court Judge Steve Simpson, to oversee the pension. And he said an announcement of a settlement deal between the health system and retirees is close at hand.
“What we believe was the root of a lot of the problem was there was nobody on behalf of the pension holders or the pension members to look out for their interest alone,” said Jim Reeves, who represents some of the retirees. “Now we have that person in place who is a watchdog, so to speak, for the pension holders.”
April Havens gave us even more background on Simpson:
Simpson, a Gulfport attorney who focuses on civil litigation, defense, governmental affairs and lobbying, premises liability defense, personal injury defense and criminal defense, is also a former Mississippi Public Safety Commission member.
The decision to put Simpson at the helm of the pension plan was made Tuesday during a hearing before Special Master Britt Singletary in Pascagoula.
“Singing River Health System and certain plaintiff’s attorneys have agreed to an order governing the administration of the retirement plan and trust,” SRHS attorney Brett Williams said.
Between the two accounts, anyone that did not previously know Mr. Simpson now understand that his background is impressive:
- A lawyer that “focuses on civil litigation, defense, governmental affairs and lobbying, premises liability defense, personal injury defense and criminal defense”
- Appointed by former Governor Haley Barbour as head of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety
- A former Harrison County Circuit Court Judge
I am just guessing but to the extent litigation and in particular agreed orders inherently involves a negotiating process there is a good chance Mr. Simpson was a compromise choice. The public may never know the answer to the how the parties settled on Simpson but to me the real question is whether or not he is qualified to be a pension trustee. My personal opinion is not and by implication I think it is more likely than not that once again the cost of the bad decision making will be borne down the line by the SRHS pension plan participants.
It would not be fair for me to leave it at that but before I lay out why I think Mr. Simpson is not the right choice, what do the folks over at SRHS Watch think? That interactive website is heavily trafficked by retirees so the commentary is going to reflect some of what the group as a whole is thinking. The analysis is brutal but I think it is also reflective of a growing frustration among the retirees that has reached the boiling point: Continue reading “Let’s analyze the proposed SRHS settlement: The Trustee”