Friday, January 9, 2015

Singing River Saga Dec. 12: The court fights begin.

Note: The problems at Singing River Health System (Jackson County) continue to mount. The Sun-Herald has been breaking stories about the troubled hospital system since November. It is important to start from the beginning, so JJ is posting stories about this fiasco starting from several weeks ago, to give readers the history of this story.

The Sun-Herald reported on December 12, 2014 that several victims in the Singing River pension disaster are going to court:


A Singing River Health System retiree wants a federal judge to send her case against the health system back to state court or enter a new restraining order that prevents any action on the failed employee pension plan.

Retiree Cynthia Almond had secured a temporary restraining order Monday in state Chancery Court that prohibits the health system from touching the plan. Retirees, former employees vested in the system and supporters packed a Jackson County courtroom Friday morning for a hearing before Judge Neil Harris. Harris was to consider making the order permanent and opening the health system's financial and retirement records to Almond's attorneys so they could ferret out any culprits who contributed to the plan's failure.

Instead, Harris adjourned the hearing seconds after he took the bench because Singing River attorneys had filed a motion Thursday to remove the case to federal court.

Before the chancery hearing was derailed, Almond's attorneys had subpoenaed former health system CEO Chris Anderson, current CEO Kevin Holland and members of the Board of Trustees to testify.

"If we could have had this hearing today, we could have opened up every hospital file and board book," Almond attorney Earl Denham said. "Everything would have been transparent. It would have been done, except including the people to be sued" over the pension plan's failure.

Denham and co-counsel Harvey Barton switched gears, filing motions in federal court late Friday afternoon. The temporary restraining order Harris issued Monday remains in force. Denham is asking U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola to return the case to Chancery Court, or to grant a new emergency

restraining order.

Singing River is entitled to a hearing on the restraining order within 10 days of the date it was issued.

It removed the case to federal court because SRHS attorneys maintain the pension plan falls under federal regulations and Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

Almond wants a restraining order in place because once the plan is terminated, plan documents say, employer contributions can stop even if benefits have not been fully funded. It is only 48 percent funded, SRHS executives have acknowledged.....

SRHS told vested employees they could expect 50 to 70 percent of pay for life when they retired. Now, it says it will pay vested pension participants lump sums based on their mandatory contributions.

"We could lose everything now," said Ralph Drury, who'd looked forward to traveling the country with his wife in their RV. "If we had known this was going to happen, we would have made some changes before now and we wouldn't be in this desperate a situation. We could have tried to prepare for it."

The Drurys are in their 80s. He retired in 1997. Rest of article
Earlier posts on Singing River:
Singing River Saga Dec. 8: "Who knew what when" is the question.
Cartoon on Singing River
Singing River Saga, December 5: Judge freezes pension liquidation.
Adding more pieces to the Singing River puzzle
Singing River on December 3: Liquidate Pension Plan
Singing River Pension Disaster: No excuses
Singing River audit
Singing River: 23 days cash on hand, Supes want to question MBMC CEO
What the hell was going on at Singing River?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Neil Harris is an abject jackass and damn near incompetent to be a judge. Its not that he is stupid...its that he is incapable of being impartial and objective.

Next, these are all federal issues and Harris' Court of Many Horrors is not the proper venue for this matter.

Plaintiffs can get the same relief in the same manner in Federal Court...may take a few days longer but if they are correct, the US District Judge will issue the appropriate orders.

Anonymous said...

From the perspective of one who has had the unusual oppertunity to have had several occasions of professional contact with Judge Harris, I agree with @ 1:07 PM. IMHO, however, Harris IS incompetent to be a judge.

Anonymous said...

Neal Harris was barely re-elected. When he puts on the robe he gets the I am god complex. Most attorneys on the coast despise him,except Earl Denham and Harvey Barton.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

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