One member of the Government Employees’ Retirement System board of trustees suggested Thursday “it is just a waste of time” negotiating with Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. concerning the collection of $11 million GERS says it is owed by the central government.
Trustee Andre Dorsey told fellow board members at a monthly meeting, “The law has been broken.” Austin Nibbs, GERS administrator, recommended further research into the matter and board Chairman Nellon Bowry agreed.
Nibbs sent a letter to Office of Management Director Jenifer O’Neal and Department of Finance acting Commissioner Clarina Modeste-Elliott on March 2 asking for the funds.
O’Neal responded, “Per the advice of the Department of Justice, the Government of the Virgin Islands will not make any additional payments for ‘Outstanding Employer Contributions to GERS,’ while there is still ongoing litigation before the court.”
Dorsey said the Governor’s Office is comparing “apples and oranges,” because the $11 million being requested by GERS has nothing to do with funds subject to litigation.
GERS responded to O’Neal’s letter by sending an invoice March 10 for $11 million, naming “Outstanding Employer Contributions Due from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund.” Sen. Dwayne DeGraff jumped into the fray at the end of February asking her to ensure GERS receives its portion of excess revenues collected in fiscal year 2020.
Nibbs reported he did receive a letter from Gov. Bryan on other matters. In a March 10 letter Bryan wrote, “As you know, the continued downward spiral of our retirement system is of utmost concern to me and my administration. While finding the appropriate solution in as expedient a timeframe as possible is a daunting task, there are some opportunities that we could and should take advantage of in the meantime.” Bryan mentioned training programs that can help employees “learn how to invest now outside of only employer-covered plans.” He said employees should know GERS is not set up to cover all their retirement needs, adding, “This kind of financial counseling is especially essential considering that many current employees may be subject to reduced benefit packages.”
Bryan suggested GERS look at restarting the employee loan program it used to manage but change it to include higher interest rates that can earn some money.
Bowry said he also wrote to the governor. He said the situation presently at the board is “untenable,” as only three members of the board are serving in an up-to-date capacity, not enough to make a quorum. Three members whose terms have expired have remained active – as allowed by code – until replacements are found or they are reappointed.
Bowry also reported discussing with Sen. Kurt Vialet the senator’s plan to create a subcommittee to explore possible solutions to the predicted bankruptcy of GERS.
Hiring a replacement for Nibbs, who is to retire at the end of June, was not discussed.
Attending the monthly meeting broadcast on YouTube were Trustees Vincent Liger, Dwane A. Callwood, Dorsey and Bowry.