OPERS gaffe ends with $123K settlement


By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com



Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Amherst mayor Mark Costilow explains how small amounts of cash were taken from a number of city accounts and redirected to pay about $123,000 to workers whose retirement savings were improperly calculated.


City auditor David Kukucka, seen here, and mayor Mark Costilow have called the retirement miscalculations a mistake that apparently stemmed from a misinterpretation of the law by former auditor Diane Eswine.


A big chunk of change — a little more than $123,000 — has been cannibalized from various Amherst accounts to pay city workers whose pensions were incorrectly figured for years.

“This, without going to court, is the best thing we could come up with,” mayor Mark Costilow told city council members Monday.

The payout is awaiting final approval, expected next week. An initial vote was cast just hours after a 4 p.m. deadline for Amherst workers to take a settlement and in return pledge not to sue.

Costilow said “all the big hitters signed” but not all 91 affected workers did. Those remaining are unlikely to take the issue to court, he feels.

The settlement is “fair and will make employees whole,” he said.

Workers were asked to visit Peck & Peck Accountants to have their contributions reviewed and recalculated for the years 2009-2011, and the payout will cover any losses. The IRS allows amended tax returns that would cover 2012-2015.

In the last two months, Costilow has hand-delivered letters to affected workers and his office has mailed multiple copies to those who no longer work for the city.

The disagreement stems from the way contributions to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System have been calculated since 2005. The Amherst auditor’s office, briefly under Diane Eswine but since 2006 under David Kukucka, had been basing its pension numbers on post-tax figures rather than pre-tax figures.

The problem was discovered by deputy auditor Gwen Melbar shortly after she was hired last year to replace retired deputy Richard Pless.

There is a small catch: Everyone who is taking the settlement will receive a 1099 form and must pay state and local taxes on the money, since it is technically income, said Kukucka.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Amherst mayor Mark Costilow explains how small amounts of cash were taken from a number of city accounts and redirected to pay about $123,000 to workers whose retirement savings were improperly calculated.

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2016/11/web1_DSC_6041.jpg

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Amherst mayor Mark Costilow explains how small amounts of cash were taken from a number of city accounts and redirected to pay about $123,000 to workers whose retirement savings were improperly calculated.

City auditor David Kukucka, seen here, and mayor Mark Costilow have called the retirement miscalculations a mistake that apparently stemmed from a misinterpretation of the law by former auditor Diane Eswine.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2016/11/web1_DSC_6038.jpgCity auditor David Kukucka, seen here, and mayor Mark Costilow have called the retirement miscalculations a mistake that apparently stemmed from a misinterpretation of the law by former auditor Diane Eswine.

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@civitasmedia.com