Lawmakers and Seven Counties say meeting Friday served its purpose, more work to do

08/18/2014 01:08 PM

UPDATED: Lawmakers and leaders with Seven Counties Services met Friday in what is being called an educational and productive meeting meant to open the lines of communication between the groups as the state considers the future of the retirement system.

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, along with two other legislators came together in an “ad hoc” working group with Seven Counties Services on Friday to discuss continued business with the state and the mental health agency’s perceived liability to the commonwealth.

In a telephone interview with Pure Politics Yonts described the meeting as going “fine” adding that lawmakers achieved what they set out to achieve — bringing Seven Counties to the table to talk about their liability to the state.

The Kentucky Retirement Systems and Seven Counties Services are still embattled in a legal challenge over the Louisville mental health provider’s ability to leave the pension system and their pension liabilities.

Actuaries for Kentucky Retirement Systems estimate the pension obligation for Seven Counties at $90 million — but so far Seven Counties has countered that the no judge has declared an amount owed.

The ruling and what happens next is important to lawmakers who say are keeping an eye on the treasury — if Seven Counties leaves the system and their obligation it could set the standard for other mental health agency’s to follow suit — which could results in a loss of billions to the state pocketbook.

“We’re trying to pull the thorn out of our prickly finger,” Yonts said.

Yonts said there are no more meetings scheduled with Seven Counties. Lawmakers encouraged legal counsel for Seven Counties to reach out to legal counsel with the Kentucky Retirement Systems to continue the talks.

Along with Yonts were Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, and Seven Counties Services Board Chair Judge David Holton, CEO Tony Zipple, CFO Abbreial Drane, and KARP Executive Director Steve Shannon, among others.

Gwen Cooper, the vice president of external affairs for Seven Counties, said the meeting Friday was a “productive first meeting used to educate each other regarding the situation.”

“The lines of communication continue to be open and we are looking forward to meeting with the Governor, Lt. Governor and/or their designated staff members,” Cooper said.

Seven Counties Services is seeking a sit-down talk with Beshear and others in the executive branch in the near future to discuss business with the state and an agreement on liabilities.

Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Beshear, said the governor and his staff continue to monitor the Seven Counties lawsuit and the “impact that case will have on the structure and financial viability of the pension system.”

“Representatives of the Governor’s Office and Seven Counties plan to meet soon, and we are keenly aware of Seven Counties’ interests,“Richardson said. “We will continue to work to maintain the integrity of the pension system for the thousands of Kentucky retirees and employees who depend on it.”

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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