Arundel errs in contributions to employee pension plans

Audit shows $2.6 million unpaid in FY 2002

fix-it money said to be available

January 07, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

For at least a year, Anne Arundel County government contributed less than it should have to its employee pension plans, shortchanging the trust funds by $2.6 million, county auditor Teresa Sutherland said yesterday.

County officials said the financial loss will be "very minimal" and fix-it money is readily available. But the mistake is cause for concern, employee union officials said.

"This little black eye here is going to hurt us," said O'Brien Atkinson, president of the Anne Arundel County Fraternal Order of Police. "It makes everybody real cautious about the pension itself. It makes people unsure about something we should be sure about."

For now, the question remains: How did this happen for so long?

"We didn't get that far," Sutherland said.

Sutherland discovered the error last month during the county's routine year-end audit, she said. The county makes contributions to the employee pension fund on a monthly basis. For 10 of the months between July 1, 2001, and June 30, the contributions were miscalculated by the county personnel office, Sutherland said.

She said she suspects the contributions also were miscalculated from June until last month, though that has not been determined.

Adequate money to fund the pension contributions was in the county budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30, said Matt Diehl, a spokesman for County Executive Janet S. Owens. When the money was not spent, it went into a surplus fund, he said. But officials did not immediately notice the mistake, county Controller William R. Brown Jr. said.

Now that the mistake has been uncovered, the County Council will be asked to earmark the money again for the pension fund.

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