Five recently retired New Orleans police officers will receive delayed pension checks this week, but another ex-officer must continue to wait for his payment until the city files additional information, according to the office that handles pensions for officers across the state.
While the Municipal Police Employees Retirement System will mail checks to the five retirees Tuesday, its director, Kathy Bourque, said there will be similar delays every month until the city begins to submit data in the correct format.
For its part, the city claims that MPERS is holding the money hostage, essentially because of a clerical error, but it promises to try to work with the agency to fix the problem.
Donovan Livaccari, the attorney for the affected officers, said the ongoing squabble will hurt people who for decades served the city. He urged the two sides to find a solution before delayed payments become a long-term problem.
In an email, Bourque said that MPERS has been working with the city’s Finance Department since June in an effort to obtain “correct and usable information.”
She said about 200 other municipalities in the state submit monthly reports to the agency but that it has “continually had problems receiving correct information from New Orleans.”
A new city payroll system that went online in May only made things worse, Bourque said.
Reports submitted to MPERS for May and June were incorrect because some information was missing and some was not in the right format, she said.
“As a result of this incorrect format, MPERS’ staff has had to manually input data submitted because of the inadequate information from New Orleans,” Bourque said. “We are hopeful that the city of New Orleans will soon be able to get their new payroll system to provide the required reports in a usable format.”
Andy Kopplin, the city’s chief administrative officer, said that even if there are issues with how information is submitted, the officers have a right to be paid, and he decried the delay in issuing the pension checks.
MPERS “has a vital responsibility to make sure that people who retire get the paycheck they have earned,” Kopplin said in a prepared statement. “It is unacceptable to hold pension payments hostage over resolvable paperwork issues.”
He said the city is “committed to continuing to work with MPERS to answer any additional questions.”
Livaccari, an attorney for the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he sees fault on both sides — the city submitting data in the wrong format and MPERS refusing to pay, despite its obligation — and hopes that both parties come to a workable solution before the officers are again denied their payments.
“It’s really a squabble between the city and state over data. They (the officers) are just casualties,” he said. “We can only hope the city takes the steps necessary to improve the process going forward. Maybe we can prevent this in the future.”
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.