Thousands of Singing River Health System retirees are still fighting for justice in the hospital’s failed pension plan. Retirees are calling what happened in Jackson County Court today a small victory as a settlement moves forward in federal court.
Dalores Gowder retired from Singing River Hospital eighteen years ago. Gowder worked at the front desk managing paperwork, answering patient calls and questions, but it’s her question to the hospital she feels has been left unanswered for three years. “How are we going to live if we don’t have no money? I want to know why it’s taking so long to come to a conclusion.”
Over three thousand retirees that once worked for Singing River Health System did not receive the money promised from a pension plan that failed to provide funds. Retiree Irby Tillman said, “I got to make new plans. Well, I’m too old to make new plans.”
In a courtroom filled with SRHS retirees, a motion hearing resulted in the replacement of the plan’s special fiduciary. Jackson County Chancery Clerk Josh Eldridge has been appointed to serve as co-fiduciary until Steve Simpson can be replaced. Replacing Simpson was a controversial decision as some wanted him to stay, other retirees felt questionable about his ties to the plan. Attorney Jim Reeves said, “Somebody in his firm had previously represented at the hospital. This particular fiduciary changed jobs and in the middle of the job when he moved to the new firm, the conflict arose.”
“The outcome, I believe, is a victory for us,” said Tillman.
Attorneys involved hope federal court approves a settlement recovering the money owed to the retirees. “It’s one hundred percent of the mispayments, no pension plan member is going to pay any attorney fees. We think it’s a fantastic settlement under the circumstances and we’re confident it’s going to be approved when we get back in front of the federal district court,” said Reeves.
As the hopeful settlement moves to federal court, retirees plan to be behind it. “The pension plan does not belong to Singing River Hospital. It doesn’t belong to the county. It doesn’t belong to the court. It belongs to the three thousand plus participants