Government Employees Retirement System board members spent the morning Thursday going over old business in their monthly meeting, including a discussion about an ongoing conflict with the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
At the board’s meeting in July, members alleged that WAPA officials were withholding their employees’ contributions and keeping it for themselves to cover operating expenses.
At the meeting, GERS Administrator Austin Nibbs said the system has not received contributions from WAPA for its employees since the Feb. 2 pay period, leaving the authority with $5 million in outstanding contributions due to GERS.
Nibbs also said that WAPA has not paid because officials contend they have a credit for some employees that were paying in 10 percent instead of the regular 8 percent.
After the July meeting, WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn told the Source that the authority would soon be meeting with GERS officials, and is aware of a pending balance with the system.
Dunn said WAPA has continued to withhold the employees’ contributions, but is not using it for operating expenses. WAPA is instead holding the money until a settlement is reached, since there is still an issue about how much the authority has been overpaying in contributions, she said.
At Thursday’s meeting, not only did the conflict not find resolution, but it appeared that both sides in the battle had taken a step back.
In a letter sent two days ago, WAPA’s Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said his staff had come up with a proposed payment plan for $4.5 million, which would take the authority up to 2014 because of its “dire” financial position.
Reading the letter aloud Thursday, Nibbs called Hodge’s response a “slap in the face.”
“I don’t agree with the proposal,” he said. “Also as you know we’re supposed to collect interest, but interest has not been attached, delinquent fees have not been attached, loss of investment has not been attached. I can see problems ahead with WAPA. This has been going on for a year and a half, back and forth, back and forth. It’s our threatening to take them to court that we’re here today. I can understand his problems, but under the statute we’re supposed to get certain things.”
Nibbs discussed starting to charge WAPA for interest going forward, and board members also discussed taking legal action against the power company. Board chairman Raymond James said Nibbs would make the final decision on what to do.
Also during the meeting, board members heard from Jaredian Designs principal John Woods, who is the architect on GERS’ proposed hotel development project on St. Thomas.
Woods said that the Senate zoning hearing on the development project is scheduled for next week and he asked board members to attend. Woods said senators have approached him with concerns about how GERS can afford to build the development when it is losing money.
GERS board members also discussed building a residential development on St. Croix, approved an amendment to its alternative investment policy, and also approved a contract extension until Jan. 31, 2012 with LRWL for the design of its new computer system.
Board members attending the meeting were: Wilbur Callender, Carver Farrow, James, Vincent Liger, Desmond Maynard, and Leona Smith. Board member Edgar Ross was absent.