Fortville clerk overwhelmed, behind on pension payments

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Imagine if retirement money taken out of your paycheck wasn’t being invested by your employer. That’s the scenario unfolding in the town of Fortville.

Fortville clerk-treasurer Marcie Stafford admits she’s overwhelmed by her workload and behind on transferring town employee payments to the Public Employee Retirement Fund, or PERF. That fund is responsible for managing public employees’ retirement funds, many of which include additional benefits like disability coverage. Stafford claims her requests for help fell on deaf ears for months.

“I’ve been asking for help,” Stafford said during an interview with I-Team 8 Thursday. “And that’s the reason why. Because I need help. Believe me, I’m not one to delegate. I’m more of a control freak. I want to make sure it’s done correctly. So for me to say I need help is the equivalent of an alcoholic walking into his first meeting with AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).”

On Monday night, the town council voted to hire her an assistant. Stafford says that person starts next week. She hopes they will be able to lighten her workload. But the late payments have already led to penalties from INPRS, the state’s retirement system and increased tension within city hall.

Police Chief Bill Knauer showed I-Team 8 records that indicate the city has at least three payments that are past due- dating back to June. Knauer acknowledged Thursday that he thinks Stafford has made an effort since Monday’s town council meeting.

“I’m a little more comfortable. But I would feel a lot more comfortable if it was something that was handled. This is something that we’ve been working on for several months,” Knauer said.

Stafford’s office is a virtual fortress of boxes. Many of them are old payroll statements or personal files – some that date back decades. They all still need to be archived and placed on microfilm. Couple that with the online pension payment transfers she is suppose to make but hasn’t in months, and Stafford says people should understand her workload is burdensome.

As of Thursday afternoon, Jeff Hutson, a spokesman for the Indiana Public Retirement System, told I-Team 8 that Fortville had not made its payments. In fact, INPRS was still working to verify the bank account set up to make transferring the funds possible.

Knauer criticized Stafford for working odd hours, which he says causes or prevents her from efficiently completing her work.

Stafford, who is an elected official, admits she sometimes doesn’t come into the office until the afternoon, but says she often works late into the night – sometimes into the earlier morning hours. As an elected official, she is not required to keep a time sheet but claims she works 70 or more hours per week.

When pressed about why the payments haven’t been made, Stafford said: “Because I would work on it get pulled away, then get working on something else, and then get back to it. And then there were still more problems.”

The problems she was referring to include computer issues with setting up the online bank account. Until that’s complete, the pension money can’t be transferred. That could take up to 10 days, according to Hutson.

Knauer expressed concern that his officers wouldn’t be covered by long-term disability if one were hurt while on the job. Hutson said INPRS would cover that employee, but would later attempt to recoup that money from the town.

So far, the late pension payments could cost the town $1,000 or more. Those penalties, Stafford says, will be up to her to payoff personally.

When asked what she would say if someone said she just can’t do her job, Stafford replied: “They’re wrong” and went on to tout her years of experience as both clerk-treasurer and an assistant to the office.

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