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Prosecutor: Montgomery County employees short-changed by Ohio pension fund

The Ohio Public Retirement System has failed to fully account for the income of 194 Montgomery County employees when calculating pension benefits, according to complaints filed Tuesday with the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Separate filings by the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office and the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts each allege the Ohio Public Retirement Board made determinations that were “arbitrary and capricious, singling out limited employees with no basis or explanation.”

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“For years, OPERS has accepted end-of-year compensation as part of the ‘total compensation’ of county employees,” said Mat Heck Jr., the county prosecutor. “Not only is it unfair to treat employees unequally, but OPERS actions negatively affect an employees pension when they retire.”

The county offices claim OPERS improperly excluded year-end lump sum compensation payments from the calculation of the total “earnable salary” paid to the 194 employees, but not others in the same offices.

More than half of the employees work in the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office while the remainder are spread across the offices of auditor, public defender, Board of Elections, engineer, county clerk of courts and the county’s municipal courts.

The county is asking the Supreme Court of Ohio to compel the OPERS to designate all compensation as earnable salary to the OPERS fund when calculating pension contributions.

Karl A. Kuszaj, an OPERS finance and compliance supervisor, disputed many of the county’s assertions — some based on incomplete documentation provided by the county — in a June 2017 letter to Heck.

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For up to a dozen years, according to the filing, county employees have received a portion of their compensation in a lump sum payment near the end of the year dependent upon the county office’s budget savings throughout the year. The payments are based on merit or longevity of service, according to the county.

The payments in question were made to the employees in December 2016 and December 2017 and ranged from $250 to $20,375.

County public employees are required to enroll in the OPERS system, therefore do not participate in Social Security.

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