Wayne County retirees win $32 million fight with county

Judge orders Wayne County to repay money it took in 2011

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - The Michigan Court of Appeals has handed a financial victory to Wayne County government retirees.

Those retirees have been fighting the county over $32 million destined for their retirement fund.

The Wayne County retirement fund has two sources. One source is the fund the county is required to pay into every year.  The other is called the 13th paycheck fund. That fund is a form of a bonus paid to retirees from investment earnings. It replaced a cost-of-living formula.

In 2011, the 13th check fund was overfunded.  County executive Bob Ficano, with the approval of the county commission, took $32 million from the 13th check fund and put it into the required payment fund.

Retirees sued and lost two rounds in court. Now the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the retirees, saying the county reached into the pockets of the retirement system to get retirement funds, as if it was county money.  The court ordered county government to pay back the $32 million.

The Appeals Court did side with County Executive Ficano and the board by upholding a later ordinance which keeps the 13th check fund from growing too large.

A spokesperson for Ficano's office said Friday the county will appeal the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn the ruling to repay the $32 million to the retirement fund.

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