S.R.H.S. Retirees Continue to Seek Answers in Pension Saga

The Singing River Health System (S.R.H.S.) pension plan saga continued Monday with new action in the court room.

A new plaintiff and a new restraining order were on the docket Monday morning, as retirees continue to look for answers for their missing money. Many retirees of Singing River Health System worked for decades, hoping their retirement would be a time of rest, but in late October, they received some disturbing news. Jean Manning, a S.R.H.S. retiree, says, "We was promised we would have our pension check until we died, and now they’re trying to terminate it."

The Singing River Board of Trustees voted to terminate the plan at their November meeting, and only a series of temporary restraining orders by the retirees have kept their hopes of a pension alive. Ralph Drury, another S.R.H.S. retiree, says, "We’re still fighting for our rights. I hope in the future it comes back to us, that the retirement is restored."

Monday’s restraining order request was granted, but the case is being reviewed by the federal court in Gulfport. The plaintiffs would rather the case stay in Jackson County. Harvey Barton, attorney for S.R.H.S. retirees, says, "We need to keep this ball in play until the federal court decides they don’t have jurisdiction."

The courtroom action took a dramatic turn as a last second witness, with video evidence from the Jackson County Board of Supervisor’s meeting right across the street, shows, at least in the eyes of the plaintiffs, the board’s lack of action and reluctance to get involved in the ongoing situation. Sabrina Smith, a witness, says, "If the board of supervisors can’t trust these board of trustees to do the right thing, how can we trust the board of supervisors?”

Drury also says, "It’s up to them, they should make a move and they’re sitting back on their behinds not doing anything." The lack of support from the supervisors has the retirees frustrated, but the silence from the Singing River camp has been deafening. Barton also says, "Frankly, they have been impossible to work with. There’s no working together with them whatsoever. We’re working around the clock to stay one step ahead of them."

Until the plaintiffs get a permanent injunction blocking the termination of their pension, Barton has a chilling message for current Singing River employees: "Do not retire right now. If you’re an employee now and thinking about retiring, do not retire, because if they are successful in doing what they are trying to do, retiring now would be very harsh and detrimental."

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