County owes $80,000 to employee retirement fund

County owes $80,000 to employee retirement fund

Officials have to play catch- up after error leads to payroll snafu

news@theeveningtimes.com

Crittenden County owes the state public employees retirement system over $80,000 as a result of a recently discovered payroll error.

County Judge Woody Wheeless informed the Quorum Court that the county has not made any payments into the state retirement system on one employee’s behalf since that person was first elected.

The person in question is Sheriff Mike Allen. Allen was elected Sheriff in 2011 and is currently drawing retirement from Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System. “APERS is requiring us to back pay all the way until the day that he got elected,” Wheeless said. “That dollar figure is $80,500.”

Wheeless said the county was under the impression that they did not have to pay into APERS because Allen is currently in the system.

He called APERS and was told that even though Allen is getting money from the state retirement, the county is still responsible for paying the county’s portion, but that Allen is not responsible for having anything held out of his check.”

“He’s not contributing to that plan, but we are required by law to contribute on his behalf, even though he is not going to get any benefit out of it whatsoever,” Wheeless said. “We are basically paying into the pool. The law says we have to do that.”

Assistant County Clerk Katie Jackson, who discovered the error, said that it was a payroll error which predated her taking over payroll duties for the county.

“This was an oversight for seven years,” Jackson said.

Jackson told the justices that when she called APERS they didn’t even have Crittenden County listed as having a sheriff.

“As soon I found out that APERS did not have a sheriff listed for us, at that point I put it on the report and began paying the benefits side immediately,” Jackson said. “And for the last three or four months I have had to calculate from January 2011 and calculate it in and forward it to them.”

Wheeless said the actual amount owed to APERS is about $64,000. The rest of the balance is in interest owed.

Justice Kenneth Cross said he doesn’t understand why APERS would penalize the county for reporting the error.

“If we brought it to their attention, then why are we being penalized?” Cross asked. “If I brought something to your attention that is going to benefit you, I am cutting you some slack.

If you hadn’t said anything about it, then what?

“That’s not a penalty,” Wheeless responded.

“That’s what APERS says from the day he was elected and took office to the where we are at today, that is the amount that money on his behalf would have made in interest.”

Justice Hubert Bass asked what would happen if the county didn’t pay it.

“It’s going to get bigger,” Jackson said. “We will only be penalized if we don’t pay it.”

Wheeless said he tried to get APERS to not charge them the interest.

“I made two phone calls to APERS trying to get the interest waived and they wouldn’t do it,” Wheeless said.

Justice Stacy Allen praised Jackson for catching the error.

“I appreciate you catching the error,” Allen said.

The county has until Dec.

17 to pay APERS.

By Mark Randall

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