Greene County Commissioners sue 10 employees over backpay

ajc.com

Greene County commissioners have sued 10 employees, including two elected officials, seeking backpay for what the county says were overpayments.

The employees owe a combined $90,000 in wages they were overpaid in the past 11 years because of a withholding error related to Medicare coverage. The employees say they did nothing wrong and this was a mistake made by the county.

The lawsuit says the employees were overpaid and not paying the county back is “unjust.”

The overpayment stems from a state law that says state and local government employees who are hired or rehired after March 31, 1986, must pay into Medicare for future coverage. The employees in question retired and then were rehired by Greene County after 2007, but the county auditor’s office didn’t withhold payment for the Medicare coverage for those employees until 2018, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

ExploreGreene County could sue 10 employees over back pay, including county prosecutor

At the time, the county auditor’s office didn’t consider these retire-rehires as a break in employment, so Medicare contributions were not withheld. However, IRS rules see retirement as a break in service. The auditor started withholding those contributions when the office realized the mistake had been made.

The county paid about $200,000 for both the employer and the employee portions of the unpaid Medicare taxes in July.

The complaint, filed Tuesday, also asks the Greene County Common Pleas Court to rule whether the county should withhold the portion of Medicare tax that the county paid to the IRS on behalf of the 10 employees or if the county should report that portion of taxes as income on those employees' W-2s for this year.

Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson asked the employees to enter into a payment agreement to repay the county in August. None did, so the suit was filed.

“The commissioners are adamant about recouping the taxpayer dollars that have been expended on behalf of these individuals that they have refused to pay,” Huddleson said.

The employees the county is seeking reimbursement from include Prosecutor Stephen Haller and Common Pleas Judge Stephen Wolaver. The other employees — Jewel Amburgy, Richard Bowman, Michael Brown, William Harden, Teri Lajeunesse, John La’Rock, Suzanne Schmidt and Terry Swisshelm — had Haller speak on their behalf.

“These employees did absolutely nothing wrong, unless it’s wrong to trust the county auditor to take care of your payroll. We are not at fault here. We should be sitting down and talking about this like adults, not hiring lawyers with taxpayers' money and suing each other," Haller previously told the Dayton Daily News.

Haller declined to comment on Tuesday, directing the newspaper to speak with the attorney for the 10 employees, Jim Kordik. Kordik could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Haller previously said all 10 employees combined have served Greene County for over 400 years.

Judge Michael Buckwalter has been assigned to the case, according to Greene County records.

In Other News