Saturday, September 23, 2017

State retirement system claims Joplin R-8 officials committed fraud in denying benefits to bus drivers

A new wrinkle has been thrown into the lawsuit filed by Joplin R-8 bus drivers and former bus drivers that claimed the district deliberately failed to make payments into the state retirement fund for several years.

In a response and counterclaim filed August 31 in Cole County Circuit Court, the Public Education Employee Retirement System (PEERS) denied the allegations made by bus drivers Todd Palmer and Jack Long and former driver Sheri Virgin, and said that if they were owed money and did not receive it, it was because the R-8 District did not provide them with the information or the funding and committed fraud during the process:

If Plaintiffs are entitled to receive from PEERS any creditable service for their alleged pre-2011 employment with .Joplin or any other employment with .Joplin that .Ioplin did not report to PEERS as covered under PEERS and/or for which .Joplin did not remit the required contributions to PEERS, then Joplin is precluded from asserting any statute of limitations defense against PEERS because Joplin fraudulently concealed from PEERS the fact that such employment was covered under PEERS. PEERS had no independent way of knowing whom Joplin employed and, therefore, PEERS relied on Joplin to report to PEERS which of .Joplin's employees were eligible for membership and creditable service in PEERS and to remit the required contributions for those employees.

The class action lawsuit was filed July 24 alleging that the district violated the law by denying bus drivers and aides participation in state retirement. According to the petition, the district did not begin putting money into PEERS until 2011, though the law requires automatic enrollment for those who work 20 hours or more per week.

The lawsuit claims the district benefited financially by its failure to properly make the retirement payments.

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