Swain retirement dispute referred to state

When the Swain County Board of Elections didn’t get the response it wanted from the county commissioners, it decided to ask the state for an answer to a retirement benefits dispute that has been going on for about 10 years.

The local board of elections claims that the county owes Elections Supervisor Joan Weeks retirement benefits for the seven years she was a part-time employee. The county claims that she wasn’t eligible for retirement benefits until she became a full-time employee in 2002.

John Herrin, board of elections chairman, presented commissioners with his evidence at a county meeting earlier this month, showing commissioners previous elections cases that would apply to Weeks’ claim. He said Weeks was technically a state employee as an extension of the state board and the state did not distinguish between full-time and part-time election directors. 

Commissioners didn’t have much to say on the matter other than they would look into it and consult their attorney. 

Herrin asked commissioners to commit to a vote at the next meeting or he would take his concerns to the State Board of Elections for review, and that’s what the local board of elections voted unanimously to do during a March 18 meeting.  

“I asked them to put it on the next agenda and they wouldn’t even do that — they wouldn’t entertain anything,” Herrin said of the commissioners. 

Herrin said the state elections staff would review his materials showing that Weeks is due retirement benefits from 1983 to 2001, estimated to top $76,000. If the state elections staff agrees with the claim, it would be up to the state board of elections to request representation from the Attorney General’s office to seek mediation or file suit against the county. 

“The process has started,” Herrin said. “If commissioners want to discuss it further, I’m sure we could interrupt that process.” 

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