Originally created 06/28/02

Retiree brings lawsuit



A former Medical College of Georgia employee who opted for early retirement is suing the university system, alleging that what she was promised is not being delivered.

Lynn H. Green filed the Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit last week against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, seeking class-action status and a determination that the board breached its contracts by reducing monthly retirement benefits.

"My position is (the early retirement plan) was a contract. I relied totally on that," Mrs. Green said.

After 25 years at MCG as an executive secretary in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Mrs. Green said, she attended all of the informational meetings and studied the options before deciding to enter the early-retirement plan in late 1999.

With the combination of the early-retirement plan and the state Teachers Retirement System, she was to receive $2,400 a month, the same amount she would have received if she continued working for seven more years, Mrs. Green said. In January, however, she received a letter saying that the accounting firm had erred and that she would have to repay $15,000, Mrs. Green said. Her benefits also were slashed by a third, she said.

The lawsuit seeks a court ruling that requires the Board of Regents to restore her monthly benefits to its previous level.

Claims stated in a lawsuit represent only one side of a dispute. The Board of Regents will have 30 days to respond.

J. Michael Ash, the senior vice president for administration and finance at MCG, said what the early retirees received initially was just an estimate based on their years of service. There had to be adjustments made after the retirees were processed through the Teachers Retirement System, he said.

"There were some overages and some underages," Dr. Ash said.

Payments may have been reduced because the retirees might have been incorrectly credited for more time than they should have had or because leave time was not accounted for, Dr. Ash said.

The early-retirement program was created to help the school avoid massive layoffs in the face of a $22 million deficit. It was offered to those with 25 years of service or those who were 55 or older with at least 10 years of service.

Original estimates by consultant William M. Mercer were that 60 percent of those eligible would take it, at an annual cost of $13.1 million.In reality, 88 percent, or 727 people, chose the program. The annual cost was $3 million more than estimated.

Under advice from school and university attorneys, Dr. Ash said he could not comment further on those issues.

Reach Tom Corwin or Sandy Hodson at (706) 724-0851.