Local News

Pension Tension: State Retirees Want Their Money

Posted August 17, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— N.C. Attorney General Mike Easleyhas enraged state retirees who are trying to recover their illegally taxed pensions.

Easley fought the retirees' $800 million lawsuit in the first place. Now, he is trying to help them get their money fast. Retirees say they want him to butt out.

The attorney general asked a judge Friday morning to order that the retirees' second round of refunds be mailed on time this fall. The retirees' attorneys contend that processing every check now would cost the retirees over $1 million.

Easley's office has taken the retirees' attorneys to court on another issue: the $64 million fee the attorneys are receiving from the retirees' settlement.

"We have appealed what we think of as $40 million of excessive attorney fees," says Tom Moffett, an associate attorney general. Retirees have agreed that their attorneys deserve the fee.

"It is our money. It is not the state's money," says retiree Manila Shaver. "We are satisfied with the settlement that's been given to the attorneys who fought for us so long and tenaciously."

Retirees and their attorneys say Easley could make sure the refunds arrive on time by dropping the appeal.

But Easley's office says the retirees' attorneys are using the argument over fees as an excuse for not getting the refunds out on time.

"We see no reason whatsoever to hold hostage the second-installment payment that these people are entitled to [because of] attorney's fees," Moffett says.

Judge Jack Thompson will decide next week if he will order that the retirees' second set of refunds are mailed on time. Easley's request says retirees are expecting and, in some instances, relying on receiving their payments by the end of the year.