Friday, April 15, 2016 || By Michael Romain
In an interview late last month, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., said it’s only a matter of weeks before the village settles a decades-long score with some of its employees.
As we reported back in March, between 1985 and 1992, the village improperly took Social Security contributions from the checks of an unverified number of police officers and firefighters even though those workers aren’t required to pay into the system.
In 2006, when Jason Ervin was village manager, the village returned a portion of those improper payments, according to municipal records; however, at least a dozen police officers, some still working and some retired, have been complaining since 2013 that they’re still owed money.
The total that the village owes to the officers is estimated to be around $110,000, with individual amounts varying by officer, records show. But some of those aggrieved officers believe that the village has been too slow getting the money back.
Norfleet said the board has made up its mind that it will repay the money, but that it’s waiting on Michael Jurusik, the village attorney, to do resolve some technical issues. Norfleet said a resolution should be reached by the end of this month.
“We’d gotten past some of the issues regarding the money a long time ago,” said Norfleet, who was hired by the village last year. He said that Jurusik has been trying to make sure that the village doesn’t give money to officers who may nonetheless qualify for Social Security funds through various provisions.
“We want to make sure there aren’t people who are double-dipping,” he said.
He also noted that there have been different waves of officers who have come forth with claims. He said after the initial groups of officers came forward with allegations that funds had been improperly taken from them, another group of officers came forward to make similar allegations. He also noted that claims made by some officers didn’t pan out.
“When people hear the potential of getting refunds, they show up,” Norfleet said. “In one case, a request was made for a refund and that person had already gotten a refund. So that’s the kind of stuff we’re looking at. It would be irresponsible on our part [not to look into those details].”
Norfleet conceded that the village had, indeed, taken the funds improperly. He said the village had hoped that it would receive a portion of Social Security funds from the federal government as well, but discovered that the ten-year statute of limitations would prevent it from recouping funds it lost due to improperly filing paperwork.
Norfleet said the statute of limitations also means that the village isn’t technically required by the federal government to reimburse the officers. He said the village is giving the money back voluntarily, which translates into a loss of $110,000 that would come out of Maywood’s general fund.
“It’s going to be a loss, but if you owe somebody something you should give it back,” he said. “Why are you going to carry bad will into the future? What does that say about us? You have to show your employees that you care.”
Norfleet said he didn’t know the reasons why the money was taken in the first place, since any relevant documents that might flesh out some possible explanations have been either destroyed or lost.
“We just don’t have access to those records,” he said. “We’re finding pieces of documents, but not the whole picture. We’re definitely not going to find any records from the 1980s.” VFP
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