Target 12 on WPRI.com

Lawyers locked in legal battle over lien that stalled retirees’ pension checks

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two attorneys representing more than half of the retired Providence firefighters and police officers who did not receive their latest pension checks allege in a court filing the lien for legal fees filed by the other retirees’ attorneys is illegal.

The city blamed the lien for stalling payments to the 66 retirees who sued the city in 2013, lost in Superior Court about three years later, but won their appeal in the Supreme Court in June, with 38 of them expecting their frozen cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) to kick in with their September 30 checks.

They also expected back payments for about eight years of unpaid COLAs. A court filing indicates the backpay was calculated in August and expected to be paid to the eligible plaintiffs “on or about September 30.” The city has not released how much that adjustment will cost.

Now, Lauren Jones, who represents 14 retirees, and Thomas Dickinson, who represents 30, have filed a motion to strike the lien filed by Thomas McAndrew and Kevin Bowen, who represent the other retirees.

“The McAndrew/Bowen purported lien is illegal and void,” according to the motion which cites “an antiattachment statute that is designed to protect pension funds from creditors and not from the families of employees.”

The motion to strike also states McAndrew and Bowen offered “to remove their lien for any plaintiff who would pay them the sum of $17,000 (or $12,000 for those plaintiffs who did not have pension “back pay” coming to them.)”

“McAndrew/Bowen specified that their demand was “non-negotiable,” the motion says.

Neither McAndrew nor Bowen have responded to requests for comment from Target 12.

A hearing on the motion to strike the lien is scheduled for November 5.

Several of the retirees have told Target 12 they received their September pension payments through direct deposit on Thursday, about eight days late. The backpay was not included in the payments to the eligible retirees.

Paper checks are expected to arrive in the mail on a later date, according to the city.

The legal fight dates back to November 2013 when the 66 retirees sued the city after opting out of a settlement that changed how pensions were calculated, froze cost of living adjustments (COLAs) at 3 percent for 10 years, eliminated 5 and 6 percent COLAs, and moved retirees over the age of 65 to Medicare.

The settlement was aimed at calming what was characterized as a Category 5 “fiscal hurricane” by then-Mayor Angel Taveras, who estimated the settlement would reduce the unfunded pension liability by $170 million.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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