Baileyville employees share $125,000 settlement
The Town of Baileyville in Washington County failed for many years to inform their employees of their entitlement to be in a Participating Local District retirement plan within the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MePERS).
In fact, many of them were told they were not eligible for any public employee retirement system program.
The ten people involved—food service workers, janitors, secretaries—joined MePERS once the error was recognized, but most were unable to pay the back contributions due and others incurred indebtedness to do so.
MePERS has the authority to waive the back payments or to make the employer pay them, but the System refused to investigate whether the waiver was appropriate and did not pursue having the Town make the payments.
Instead, MePERS advised the school employees that the contributions for past years of service were due within 30 days in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $33,000.
When MEA became aware of the situation, Portland attorney Don Fontaine was retained to represent them and seek restitution of their losses. He filed suit in Superior Court seeking damages from the town for the employees and relief from MePERS.
“There is an epidemic of shoddy administration of retirement rights at the local level in Maine,” says Fontaine. “MePERS leaves many of the technicalities of the retirement system in the hands of overworked and untrained school administrators. And, janitors and food service workers often pay the bill.”
In a court-assigned mediation, the Baileyville school employees obtained a settlement of $125,000 with Fontaine’s assistance.