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

Greene County plans to sue 10 employees, including two elected officials, if they don’t repay a combined $90,000 in wages they were overpaid in the past 11 years because of a withholding error related to Medicare coverage.

The error stems from a state law that says state and local government employees who are hired or rehired after Mar. 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’s auditor’s office didn’t withhold payment for the Medicare coverage for those employees from 2007 until 2018, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

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.

“Even if they go back the next day, it’s considered a break,” said Greene County Auditor David Graham.

The employees were warned by the county in August they must repay the Medicare money that was not withheld.

Last week Brandon Huddleson, county administrator, said he put those employees on notice that if they did not enter into a payment agreement by the end of today, that the county would seek legal action.

“The feedback I have gotten so far has led me to believe that they are not going to enter into an agreement,” Huddleson said.

Huddleson said the county would likely file a lawsuit this week.

The employees the county is seeking reimbursement from include Prosecutor Stephen Haller and Greene County 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.

ExploreState Rep. and Fairborn councilman vie for Greene County Commission seat

“We’ve all dedicated our careers to Greene County. Some of us have been here for over 40 years,” Haller said. “These employees did absolutely nothing wrong, unless its 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 owes the county about $19,000, according to a letter from the auditor. Wolaver owes about $1,500.

Haller said this group of employees were not aware until this year that there was a large amount of money they were expected to pay the county.

The auditor sent these employees a letter in August informing them of what they owed. The auditor also emailed employees in July of this year and told the employees about the error.

Greene County self-reported the error to the IRS and paid $200,000 in July of this year, which was the employer and employee portion of what was owed to the government. The employees now owe the county $90,000 of taxpayer dollars, Huddleson said.

“We started doing withholdings immediately when we found out that a mistake had been made (in 2018),” Graham said.

Haller said this group of employees sees this as the county’s mistake, so they shouldn’t be faulted for it. Haller also said the county might have paid too much to the IRS because of a three-year statute of limitations on that law.

“This is a very complicated, complex tax issue,” he said.

Huddleson said that is “absolutely not accurate."

“The taxpayers have provided those dollars to the IRS and Medicare for those individuals and they need to reimburse them,” Huddleson said.

The 10 employees met with Huddleson and Commissioner Dick Gould twice last week. Huddleson said the county originally offered to have the group pay half of what they owe, but when no one seemed to want to repay the Medicare money, that offer was taken off of the table.

“We have done our best to correct the error and move forward,” Graham said.

Haller said the employees are upset about the way the county is treating them, but they are still willing to negotiate.

“My sense is that they’re very, very angry that they’re being treated this way,” Haller said of the group. “These are law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line for this county, a judge, for goodness sake, the coroner’s investigator.... these are people that are quality folks who have done great jobs.”

In Other News