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$75M class-action lawsuit against Hall claims employees were denied pension funds
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Attorneys Michael Kramer and Ed Buckley speak with retired and current Hall County employees involved in a pending class action lawsuit with Hall County Thursday at the Hall County Government Center. The expected class is more than 100 Hall County employees, the overwhelming majority being first responders. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Five current and former Hall County employees filed an estimated $75 million class-action lawsuit Monday against the county regarding frozen pension benefits.

The expected class is more than 100 Hall County employees, the overwhelming majority being first responders.

“We cannot comment on pending litigation,” Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said. County Attorney Bill Blalock also declined to comment.

The Times also reached out to commissioners Jeff Stowe and Scott Gibbs. Neither had been briefed on details of the lawsuit.

Attorney Ed Buckley of the Atlanta-based firm Buckley | Beal said the lawsuit is regarding retired employees and employees reaching retirement that “are being denied and will be denied pension fund benefits unless we are able to resolve this.”

The lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court is challenging a 1998 freeze in retirement pension benefits. The lawsuit claims the county “made no additional employer contributions for plaintiffs to the ‘trust fund.’”

One example listed in the lawsuit was 1st Lt. Bradford Rounds, who was hired in Hall County in 1988.

According to the lawsuit, Rounds’ monthly pension benefit would be $2,567 under the plan’s formula.

“Under defendants’ ‘freeze’ of his accrued pension benefits as of July 1, 1998, his ‘frozen’ monthly pension benefit is only $389 per month,” according to the lawsuit.

The county commissioners were served with the lawsuit at their regular 6 p.m. meeting Thursday.

Around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, some 30 Hall County employees gathered with Buckley and attorney Michael Kramer before entering the meeting. Hall County Fire Services Volunteer Chaplain Mike Taylor offered the invocation that indirectly referenced the lawsuit.

“As we come tonight, we’ve got a sampling of concerned employees tonight, and I pray — all of us pray — that with their presence here that a new dialogue would open,” he said. “And we give you thanks at the beginning of that dialogue that we live in a country that is ruled by law and order, and there’s an organized and civil way of solving our differences.”

Kramer said the chaplain’s message would “set a wonderful tone for the board of commissioners and for the employees.”

“We need to get together and try to resolve this in a fair way for all these employees who’ve worked so hard for the county and for the citizens of this county,” he said.

Kramer said the class has about 70 current employees and about 30 that retired after July 1, 2008.

The attorneys claimed Hall County “discriminated unlawfully” by exempting retirees from the freeze who left between 1998 and June 30, 2008.

“These commissioners didn’t do this originally, but now it is on their watch,” Buckley said.

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