Escambia County Clerk Pam Childers wants to avoid having to present her case for not honoring the Board of Commissioners’ contract regarding a 401(a) retirement plan that has been in place in 1997.
Her latest attempt occurred on Tuesday when she asserted in a letter to Commission Chair Jeff Bergosh that County Attorney Alison Rogers had opined that Commissioners Steven Barry, Robert Bender and Lumon May were no longer eligible for the 401(a) plan.
“…it appears that the dispute as to the propriety of my refusing to further contributions to that Plan is moot. Would it not be prudent, therefore, to dispense with further litigation…”
However, there is a problem. Rogers never opined any such position. Childers never took the time to verify the information with the county attorney.
A HR staff member, who had only been on the job three months, confused Rogers with Childers in an email to the Florida Retirement System. She meant to write: “Per our county clerk, they are no longer eligible for this plan.”
Here is an email from the County’s HR Director Crystal Dadura to County Attorney Alison Rogers explaining what happened:
Human Resources hired our new Benefits Specialist, Sarah Taber, in October 2021 to assist the benefits division for retirement services.
On Dec 9, 2021 – I was CC’d in an email from the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller with a letter attached from the Clerk notifying Payroll and myself of the changes to Commissioner’s retirement, stating it will stop as of the first payday in January. I forwarded this letter to our Benefits Manager, Melissa Eckroth, since the letter referenced to contact the department to discuss, I wanted to ensure she was apprised of the information in case we were contacted. Melissa forwarded on to Sarah Taber, as she is the retirement services specialist and handles all retirement processes and advised to reach out to FRS to be proactive in gaining knowledge of the options addressed in the letter. Ms. Taber reached out to FRS using the letter from Ms. Childers and thought Ms. Pam Childers was the County Attorney.
Ms. Taber is still new and did not know that Ms. Pam Childers was the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller and not the County Attorney when sending the email to FRS. Ms. Taber was using the letter from Ms. Childers and was referencing Ms. Childers as the County Attorney when stating, “per our County Attorney they are no longer eligible for this plan”.
Sincerest apologies for this mistake.
Human Resources Director
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners
Childers knew the email from Taber to FRS was a mistake. If she believed it was accurate, the clerk should have had her attorney contact Troy Rafferty to seek clarification.
Instead, she sent this letter outside of legal channels – Childers_Bergosh – in hopes of getting attention from the daily newspaper that would disparage Rogers and the BCC.
When someone goes to these lengths to avoid presenting her arguments before a judge, you wonder how strong a case does she have.