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  • Writer's pictureMcDonald Fleming

UPDATE: Escambia County Recovers Unlawful Retirement Funds

May 2, 2024

PENSACOLA, FL - We're thrilled to share a significant update regarding our recent legal victory concerning the unlawful compensation for Escambia County commissioners.

As of April 30, 2024, MissionSquare, the plan administrator responsible for county contributions into the retirement accounts of Commissioners Barry, May, and Bender, has returned the funds to the County. This action follows a demand letter issued by Escambia County Clerk of Court and Comptroller, Pam Childers, urging the return of all principal and interest contained in the Local Plan accounts of the aforementioned officials.

In her demand letter dated April 10, Childers outlined the principal amounts received by the commissioners as follows:

  • Former Commissioner, now Supervisor of Elections, Robert Bender: $102,089.23

  • Commissioner Steven Barry: $28,098.84

  • Commissioner Lumon J. May: $24,857.74

Childers' General Counsel, Codey Leigh, confirmed the successful wire transfer of the funds from MissionSquare to the county treasury.

This outcome follows a legal battle initiated when Childers ceased making payments into the local plan for the three commissioners, citing her belief in its unlawfulness. Despite a lawsuit filed by Escambia County to compel her to resume payments, Okaloosa Judge William Stone ruled on April 3 that Childers had the discretion to withhold payments into the fund. The Judge further affirmed that it is unlawful for elected officers, such as county commissioners, to participate in the Local Plan, deeming the County's contributions to the plan as unlawful compensation.

Two partners at our firm, Edward P. Fleming and Aaron T. McCurdy, worked alongside the Clerk’s General Counsel, Codey Leigh, to successfully argue the case in defense of Childers. Fleming expressed satisfaction in the return of the improperly paid funds to the public treasury, commending Clerk Childers for her courageous stand as the watchdog of the public treasury against tremendous pressure.

When asked about the potential ramifications if the Clerk hadn't intervened, Fleming emphasized the significant financial impact, highlighting that the Clerk's refusal to make future payments potentially saved taxpayers over $200,000.

We remain committed to upholding the principles of justice and accountability, and we applaud the efforts of Clerk Pam Childers in safeguarding the public's trust and resources.

Stay tuned for further updates as we continue our pursuit of justice.


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