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School retirees continue to fight back, retain attorneys

The sting of betrayal lingers with retirees after the elimination of the Local Optional Retirement Plan by the Halifax County School Board in July.

After no “favorable action” by the board, retirees decided to retain a lawyer in early October.

Former LORP participants all recently pitched in to pay for their attorneys of the Richmond law firm Blackburn, Conte, Schilling and Click P.C.  Spokesperson Phyllis Jackson said that a committee was formed and the group spoke with several lawyers before deciding on a firm to represent them.

“We went with them because we were impressed by their stance on the case. We trust that our attorneys and the school board can work together to solve this case and do what’s best for the retirees,” said retiree spokesperson Mike Wilborne.

According to Wilborne and Jackson the hundred plus group of former Halifax County Public School employees have been meeting since the end of July, attending board meetings and presenting their concerns with the intention of having the board reinstate the LORP program.

“It had been passed on Jan. 19. The program was presented to the retirees as part of a retirement package, and over one hundred employees have prematurely retired in reliance on the board’s promise to provide LORP benefits over the last few years,” said Wilborne.

“Funding for the LORP program was included in the 2012-2013 school budget passed on March 30 by the board. In addition, the board entered into a contractual agreement with each LORP participant for the 2012-2013 school year,” he added.

The retirees have pledged to attend every school board meeting until the situation is resolved and even after.

“I really think it’s a sad day when retired personnel who have given 30 or more years of dedicated service to our school system has to go this route to receive benefits that were promised to them in a retirement package,” said Jackson.

Attorneys for the retirees have sent out letters to each of the school board members, the superintendent and each member of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors. Counsel for the school board had yet replied to Blackburn, Conte, Schilling and Click P.C. by Friday morning.

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon had “no comment” when she was asked to comment on the matter Friday morning.

“We’re hoping the attorneys will solve the case in a positive matter,” Wilborne concluded.