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Perry Township trustees to seek legal advice on deferred pay accounts

PERRY TOWNSHIP–Trustees plan to consult with their legal counsel at the Columbiana County prosecutor’s office regarding letters sent by an attorney representing township employees regarding their deferred compensation accounts.

Trustee Don Rudibaugh raised the issue Monday, asking if anything had been done at all regarding the latest letter dated Oct. 28 from Vito Abruzzino of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell over the Empower accounts. Employees had come to trustees early in the summer with their concerns after learning of a delay between their money being taken from their paychecks and being deposited into their retirement or deferred compensation account at Empower.

An earlier letter dated Aug. 27 threatened legal action by employees if the issue over possible lost interest wasn’t resolved and the most recent letter talked about a deadline approaching for trustees to take action. The most recent letter said “or my clients will be left with no other course of action than to pursue litigation to remedy the breach of confidence and fiscal responsibility owed them as dutiful employees.”

The letter also mentioned receipt of a contract between the township and Great-West Retirement Services, with Rudibaugh saying he’s never seen that contract. He asked what it said about the funds. Apparently the contract was the original one regarding the deferred compensation program. Trustee Jim Armeni said it was like a blanket agreement from years ago before any of them were trustees.

Trustee Chair Cliff Mix asked if they should refer it to Andy Beech, the assistant prosecuting attorney who serves as their legal counsel. Armeni said he had already talked to him and was told more information was needed. Finding the contract was a first step and he also advised Armeni to respond back to the attorney and let employees know.

“I think Andy should look at both letters and the old contract and have him respond to us,” Rudibaugh said.

Part of the issue raised in the first letter was a request to determine how much employees lost in interest income since their contributions didn’t get into their accounts in a timely manner.

“I think we’re going to have to negotiate something,” Armeni said.

Since the issue first came up, employees have been given an opportunity to join a different deferred compensation program. The letter requested an audit and Armeni said they’re not doing an audit.

“I think we can resolve this another way,” he said.

In other business, trustees approved additional appropriations of $62,650 to get through the rest of the year, including: $24,300 for the general fund; $1,500 for the gas tax fund; $31,100 for the road and bridge fund; $4,000 for the police fund; $250 for zoning and $1,500 for the police enforcement/education fund.

Resident Linda Dickey asked Armeni about the truck purchase for the road department and whether he got the additional information on financing. She questioned how much interest that’s going to cost taxpayers. He said he’s not concerned about paying interest but more concerned with preserving cash and said buying a truck that’s going to last 15 to 20 years through a 5-year loan is good debt.

She asked how trustees handled such purchases in the past and he said they paid as they went, paying the cost outright instead of financing it. Armeni commented that it’s hard to make decisions when trustees don’t get financial reports in a timely manner.

Dickey said the taxpayers have a right to know the cost before trustees make the decision on how to do the truck purchase. Previously, the trustees had decided to do the purchase outright, but then Armeni said he wanted to look at financing.

The trustees heard briefly from George Morris III on the township health insurance summary. He said the numbers should be finalized soon and said they’ll probably be staying with the current Anthem design and finetune Anthem’s offers.

Six zoning permits were issued in October and one so far in November.

Rudibaugh congratulated everyone who ran for office and thanked everyone for their interest.

The next meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Nov. 25. The trustees will hold one meeting in December at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16.

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