08/25/04 — Attorney General still reviewing Everett retirement

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Attorney General still reviewing Everett retirement

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 25, 2004 1:58 PM

Former City Attorney Harrell Everett left his job with the city almost two months ago, but the state's attorney general's office still hasn't decided whether he is eligible for retirement pay.

Michael Williamson, director of the state retirement system, said his office was notified in June that Everett had left his position as city attorney. Everett, he said, won't receive payments until the matter has been decided by the attorney general.

The city has paid thousands of dollars toward Everett's retirement, even though 15 years ago state officials said he was not eligible. For purposes of retirement eligibility, state law defines an employee as a person regularly employed by local or state government. "Regular," as defined by the North Carolina Administrative Code, is an employee, "the duties of which require not less than 1,000 hours of service per year." If there is a question about what constitutes regular employment, the state decides.

City Manager Richard Slozak said Everett was a full-time employee, but Mayor Al King and Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said he was not.

Slozak sent a letter to Williamson in April regarding Everett's employment status.

Williamson sent the letter to the attorney general, asking for a legal decision on whether Everett qualifies.

Noelle Talley, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, said that the matter was "under review."

In the letter to the state, Slozak said the city paid Social Security taxes on Everett's salary and a retirement system match, but did not pay health insurance.

Slozak said Everett was offered hospitalization coverage by the city, but declined.

Slozak also said he didn't know if Everett was offered vacation or sick leave by the city, but acknowledged that he had never accrued such leave.

Slozak acknowledged in his letter that the city had continued to make payments for Everett's retirement, even though the state had determined that he was ineligible to participate.

"I do want to point out, however," Slozak writes, "that the North Carolina Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System, after making this determination, continued accepting these payments for approximately fifteen years."

Slozak said that the letter from the city in 1989 to the state retirement office regarding Everett's eligibility, didn't "accurately reflect Mr. Everett's employment relationship" with the city.

The 1989 letter to the state asking about Everett's eligibility came from Al King, when he was the city's personnel director and before he was mayor.

Slozak said he "can find no documentation which supports that Mr. Everett now or ever has been employed on a retainer basis." He also said that he couldn't find any contracts or retainer agreements between the city and Everett or his law firm.

That has changed since Slozak wrote the letter in April. After Everett announced his retirement, the city entered into a contract with Tim Finan, a partner in Everett's law firm.

Slozak said that although he was city manager in 1989, he knew nothing of the state's questioning Everett's eligibility, or "otherwise this issue would have been addressed at that time."

"Mr. Everett has informed me that he also never received such correspondence. Mr. Everett's personnel file contains no documentation of the 1989 letters which you recently faxed to my office on March 18, 2004."