County employees respond to lawsuit


XENIA — The attorney for 10 Greene County employees being sued by the commissioners filed a response to the lawsuit saying the employees are not required to reimburse the county for being overpaid.

The county alleges that the employees owe slightly more than $90,000 in wages they overpaid due to Medicare withholding omissions made by the auditor’s office between 2007 and mid-2018. The lawsuit says that the auditor’s office “incorrectly believed IRS regulations did not require Medicare FICA payments if an employee retired under the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System and was originally hired by Greene County prior to 1986.”

According to county records, the 10 employees retired and were rehired between 2004-2013, which is considered a “break in service” by the IRS and the employees were required to pay the Medicare portion of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, with a match from the county.

The county caught the error in early July 2018 and began withholding the require amount later that month. On July 7, the county paid the IRS around $180,000 to cover the amount due dating back to 2007, which is as far back as reliable records go, Auditor David Graham said.

On Aug. 26, letters were sent to the employees — Jewel Amburgy, Richard Bowman, Michael J. Brown, Stephen K. Haller, William L. Harden Jr., Teri L. Lajeunesse, John C. La’Rock, Suzanne M. Schmidt, Terry W. Sisshelm, and Stephen Wolaver — asking for reimbursement of the amount they owe by Sept. 30. Overpayments range from $1,358 to $18,852.

County Administrator Brandon Huddleson offered a payment plan and none accepted so the lawsuit was filed Nov, 3, saying that the employees will be “unjustly enriched by the overpayment of wages and Greene County’s payment to the IRS of their Medicare portion of FICA taxes.”

In the Jan. 19 response, attorney John D. Smith opined that the employees did not owe the money, writing that “Plaintiff’s claims are barred to the extent that it failed to assert the applicable statute of limitations” and that any payments made outside the applicable statute were “gratuitous.”

Smith asked for dismissal of the case.

Huddleson said the county does not comment on active litigation. Smith could not be reached for comment by deadline.

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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