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Hall judge recuses herself from pension lawsuit
Oliver wants to 'avoid any appearance of impropriety or the absence of impartiality'
0628Bonnie Oliver

A Hall County Superior Court judge recused herself Wednesday from the case involving an estimated $75 million class-action lawsuit regarding Hall County employee retirement benefits.

Judge Bonnie Oliver disqualified herself “to avoid any appearance of impropriety or the absence of impartiality” in the case filed in January with more than 100 Hall County employees in the class, according to the recusal order.

Five current and former employees brought the suit “challenging Defendant Hall County’s July 1, 1998 purported ‘freeze’ of their retirement pension benefits,” according to the initial complaint.

The order stated the matter is transferred to Chief Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller “so that the case may be reassigned.”

The lawsuit claimed Hall County “made no additional employer contributions for plaintiffs to the ‘trust fund’ administered by defendant (Association County Commissioners of Georgia) and the defendants acting in concert ‘froze’ plaintiffs’ accrued benefits as of July 1, 1998.”

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract and impairment of contract among other claims.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners filed a reply brief Sept. 27, claiming the employees’ case is attempting to “escape dismissal of their breach of contract and impairment of contract claims by grossly mischaracterizing the undisputed scope of the pension committee’s recommendations” approved in 1998.

The response continues to say the plaintiffs and other employees were still working for the county after Feb. 25, 1998, “even though it was a matter of public record after the (Feb. 25, 1998) board meeting that at some point thereafter, the defined benefit plan would be frozen and the new defined contribution plan would be established.”

“In other words, plaintiffs did not have a ‘contract that the (county’s defined benefit plan) should never be changed.’ If anything, plaintiffs had a contract as of Feb. 25, 1998, that the county’s defined benefit plan would be frozen and that the county’s defined contribution plan would be established,” according to the response.

The county is asking the court to grant its motion to dismiss or motion for judgment on the pleadings so that all claims are dismissed.