Former Judge Edgar Ross’s resignation from the Government Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees isn’t effective until the end of next month, but the board already felt the lack of his presence Thursday when, because of an emergency that prevented Ross from attending, the board could not field a quorum.
Three members – Vincent Ligor, Carol Callwood and Wilbur Callender – waited for more than an hour waiting for a fourth member to show up and make a quorum before Ligor came out into the lobby at the GERS building and apologized for having to postpone the meeting.
The lack of quorum and lack of meeting did not prevent Patricia Oliver, a GERS member but not a member of the board of trustees, from conducting an unofficial meeting in the lobby with the half dozen people – reporters and retirees – waiting.
Oliver, who works as a librarian for the Department of Education, attends most GERS meetings. She has had a running battle with the board trying to get exact figures for her retirement account – how much the government owes to the account and how much her personal contributions are lacking. She said she had received a letter from GERS saying she owed $9,000 to the account, but no documentation of why she owes that amount.
Several hundred employees retiring from the government in recent years have been denied annuity payments until payments have been made from the employee and/or the employer. At the last board meeting it was stated that 226 employees who had retired had not yet received annuity checks.
At that last board meeting Oliver was escorted out after she refused to quit asking the board questions. She was told that at the meetings only retirees were allowed to ask questions, not active working members.
Oliver handed out a letter to those in the lobby Thursday from Callender, who is chair of the board, in response to that incident. Callender wrote, “For at least the last four years, I have observed you demanding to be heard at the monthly board meeting. You have been apprised of the fact that you are not permitted to speak during the Board of Trustees meetings, and you have been told on many occasions how to proceed. At the last meeting, which was held on Jan. 26, 2017, your usual insistence on speaking culminated in security personnel having to be called.”
Callender then suggests that Oliver have legislators change the law or she give her questions to a retiree so that individual can address the board or just contact the administrator with questions.
Oliver countered with a letter she hand delivered to GERS Administrator Austin L. Nibbs on Wednesday and which she also passed out to those in the lobby. In this letter she asks for “a verifiable statement of my position with GERS.”
GERS members can go online and sign in at the GERS website and see personal payment history. However, Oliver says that GERS acknowledges that those figures are not audited and may be incorrect.
Oliver also talked in the lobby about other GERS figures about which she is concerned. She points out that GERS has just short of 9,000 retirees and just above 9,000 members working. There is little debate about those figures, but Oliver insisted that GERS might be overlooking another 20,000 accounts. These would be the accounts of people who left government service without becoming vested in the system. These people would be allowed to withdraw whatever they contributed to GERS whenever they wanted.
When contacted by the Source about the issue, Nibbs replied via email, “We have a database that can extract the information. The number of Inactive (left government and contributions on account) and Active (not vested) employees – 4,374. Total dollars – $49,176,126.00.”