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Two years in, more than $350,000 spent in legal fees for Hall County pension lawsuit
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Judge Martha Christian listens to arguments Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Hall County Superior Court during the first hearing regarding the estimated $75 million class-action lawsuit on Hall County employee pensions. - photo by Scott Rogers

Before Senior Judge Martha Christian makes her judgments in the estimated $75 million Hall County pension lawsuit, more than $350,000 will have been spent by the two sides in legal fees.

The class is made up of more than 100 current and retired Hall County employees.

Attorney Michael Kramer previously told The Times the class suit includes about 70 current employees and about 30 that retired after July 1, 2008, many of them first responders.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Brad Rounds said roughly half of the class are employees who are ready to go but are waiting for the resolution of the lawsuit.

“You don’t want to leave halfway through the fight. They want to see it through. We all want to see it through,” Rounds said.

Rounds said the plaintiffs have spent more than $33,000 so far in legal fees that have been crowdfunded from employees.

Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said the county has paid $330,400 in legal fees since January 2017, when the case was opened.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners was served with the lawsuit Jan. 12, 2017, in which Rounds and other employees in a proposed class claimed they’d been deprived of millions in retirement benefits.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a second amended complaint in December.

The plaintiffs filed an open records request for the minutes showing a “properly-called meeting” July 1, 1998, when the board resolution freezing the pension plan was adopted.

“No such minutes were produced by defendant Hall County,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim the freeze was not properly voted on and that the board resolution “was not a matter of public record disclosed to any plaintiff.”

Those who retired between July 1, 1998, and July 1, 2008 received fully accrued pension benefits without the freeze.

According to the lawsuit’s calculation, Rounds would receive $2,567 monthly without the freeze on his benefits. With the freeze in place, he would receive $389 per month.

Christian allowed the attorneys on March 1, 2018, to proceed with taking depositions from the county officials involved in the decision. This came after a day’s worth of arguments in a standing-room only courtroom filled with current and former employees.

Rounds said the plaintiffs have relied on crowdfunding techniques such as GoFundMe to gather cash whenever new legal fees arise, such as depositions.

“Whenever the lawsuit first started, we all chipped in money out of our own pockets to try to raise the retainer fee,” Rounds said.

Amanda’s Farm to Fork held a fundraising day at the restaurant, where half of the proceeds went to the employee’s lawsuit. Rounds said that brought in roughly $2,600.

Rounds said the sides are waiting for decisions in April, when Christian could grant summary judgment to either side or potentially send it to a jury trial.

“Anyone in their right mind that actually looks into our case and sees how we were treated by the county will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was wrong,” Rounds said.


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