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Mat-Su Borough sued over emergency services benefits

by Phillip Manning ~ January 20th, 2014

On Friday, a class-action suit was filed against the Matanuska-Susitna Borough on behalf of emergency services personnel.  The suit claims that some Borough Emergency Services staff are owed for contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS.  The state’s Department of Administration audited the Borough in 2012, and determined that paid on-call emergency services workers should be eligible for the program.  The Borough’s employment agreement does not include PERS contribution for emergency services employees.

Ronald Offret is the attorney who filed the lawsuit.  He says that the Mat-Su Borough has wrongfully excluded many employees from PERS.  He claims that the Borough willingly used an invalid definition of eligibility in the state retirement program.  Offret says that his firm has tried to get the Borough to reconsider its eligibility definition, but that a recent resolution by the Borough Assembly instead reiterates its existing position.  He did not provide an estimate of what it would cost the Borough to retroactively pay PERS contributions for emergency services workers, but says that it can be calculated.

The state of Alaska considers any employee who works thirty or more hours to be a full-time employee under the benefits program.  The Mat-Su Borough recently put a cap on hours for emergency workers at twenty-nine-point-nine hours.  This has resulted in concerns that emergency coverage may not be adequate and response times could get longer for those in need of help.

On Tuesday, K-T-N-A spoke with Mat-Su Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos (sper-AH-pul-US).  He says that the lawsuit had not yet been formally served, but that the Borough was aware that it is coming.  Spiropoulos says that it is too early to say what the Borough’s response will be, and that he intends to confer with the Mat-Su Borough Assembly regarding the suit.  He intends to ask the Assembly for an executive session to discuss the case in private to determine the Borough’s course of action.

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