PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A June court victory was short-lived for 66 Providence retirees who are still waiting for their September pension checks in a delay the city blames on a lien for legal fees filed by the pensioners’ attorneys.
One individual who asked not to be identified said several of their bill payments that were sent out on October 1 “got kicked back.”
“We had no idea the checks were not deposited in our accounts,” the individual said. “So, I didn’t stop the payments. We’re frustrated. Angry.”
According to city spokesperson Patricia Socarras, a lien for “outstanding legal fees and costs” filed by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Thomas McAndrew and Kevin Bowen, prohibited the retirees’ regular monthly checks from being drawn from the pension fund.
“The city did inform the attorneys representing the retirees that the payments would not be made on the 30th,” Socarras said. “It was not until October 1 that the attorneys filed an amended lien.”
Socarras said the amended lien allowed the regular checks to be dispersed, with direct deposit expected to be made this week. Paper checks will take longer to get to the retirees, Socarras said.
Neither McAndrew nor Bowen have responded to requests for comment.
The retirees sued the city in November 2013 after opting out of a settlement that changed how city 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.
Their lawsuit was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter in February 2017, but her decision was overturned in June by the R.I. Supreme Court.
According to a court filing, the city and the plaintiffs agreed on the amont of back pay that is owed, and that it would be dispersed on or before September 30 to the eligible retirees.
The has not released that total at this time.
Retired police officer John Simoneau blamed the city, not the retirees’ attorneys, for stalling the process.
“Why would this stop my regular check or the checks for the ones who were not getting the backpay?” Simoneau asked. “The letter referenced the legal cases right at the top. It seemed clear the lien was about the money from the Supreme Court decision.”
Simoneau added years of pension legal battles make him suspicious of the city’s explanation.
“I’ve talked with several in the group. We’re all frustrated,” Simoneau said. “People know that it was a spiteful, opportunity to zing them one more time.”
Simoneau said one of the group’s attorneys told him the direct deposit checks minus the retroactive pay could be in the retirees’ accounts by Wednesday.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Simoneau added.
Simoneau said no one has said when to expect the retroactive payments.