Stiffed by Suffolk County

Seven On Your Side
April 6, 2009 3:17:45 PM PDT
The former county employee said she felt like her ex-employer pick-pocketed her to the tune of $7500. It was an early retirement package from Suffolk County promised and then rescinded, months later."They don't care about the little guy, that's all there is to it," Katherine Roussis is talking about her former employer, Suffolk County. "(The county is) Very irresponsible. No compassion at all for a loyal county worker for thirteen years."

That's the amount of years Katherine worked for the county's health department. Last June, the county offered her an early retirement package. She would get a one-time pay out of $7500. 7 On Your Side's Tappy Phillips sat down with the retiree from Commack, Long Island and asked her if she would've retired without this incentive. "I don't think so. I wouldn't."

So late last June, Katherine accepted the county's retirement package and moved on to her new job, taking care of her new grandson, Angelo.

But after 5 months, the retirement check from the county never arrived. So Katherine called the county. In return she got a letter saying she wasn't eligible for the retirement money because she was a part time employee.

Katherine had two choices - take the county to a third party dispute resolution or come out of retirement and go back to work.

"But that's impossible," said Katherine. "I made commitments to my family."

"You know, this is a classic example of arrogance and stupidity on the part of these bureaucrats against an elderly woman." Suffolk County Legislator, Tom Barraga, is disgusted with the county.

Mr. Barraga tried to resolve Katherine's case last January after Katherine made an impassioned plea at a meeting of the Suffolk Count Legislature. He says his pleas for help fell on deaf ears.

And when we first contacted Suffolk County we got stonewalled too. The county's director of labor relations, Jeff Tempera admitted the county had made a mistake, and waited five months to tell Katherine.

7 On Your Side asked Tempera why the county couldn't simply cut Katherine a check. Tempera said that was simply "not done." It would first have to go through third party dispute resolution. Legislator Barraga says that step could prove costly for the cash-strapped county. "It's ridiculous, it could cost the county tens of thousands of dollars to do that. This is not about arbitration, this is about fairness and equity. And it's clear cut."

But, before we threw up our hands, we suggested Mr. Barraga make one last call to the county executive on Katherine's behalf.

"I spoke to him (Suffolk County Executive, Steve Levy) yesterday on this issue. I said 'Look call WABC-TV, work it out with him.'"

And that's just what happened. We told Katherine the good news this morning. "I'm so happy you have no idea, give me a big hug."

A rep for Suffolk County told us Katherine's check for the full amount will have to be processed. That will take two to three weeks.

Suffolk County says Katherine's check for the full amount will come in a couple of weeks.

"I've been fighting this since November and you did it in 2 days."

In a statement from Suffolk County, the Executive Steve Levy said his staff had "misinformed" him on the specifics of Katherine's case. But after the legislator and 7 On Your Side set him straight he agreed it was right to pay her the full amount. ----

Story by: Tappy Phillips

Produced by: Steve Livingstone

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Tappy Phillips