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CHEATED

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State retirement systems unfair to councilwoman, citizens

Denise Fogle has proudly served as a councilwoman for the City of Lebanon since 2008. However, Monday, when her fellow council members renewed their oath of office, she was forced to resign.

Why?

Retirement, or more specifically, because of the regulations governing the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.

Confused? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one.

Fogle worked for more than 30 years at Central Kentucky Community Action, and in that position, she paid into the Kentucky Employees Retirement System. Since she was already part of the KERS when she joined the council, the city was also required to withhold part of her salary as a council member for her retirement.

Fogle was laid off by Community Action in July, but so far she has not received any of her retirement benefits. The reason: according to Chapter 78.510(6) of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, Fogle is still “employed” by the City of Lebanon.

Under this statute, elected officials are treated the same as city employees, and as long as Fogle is “employed” by the city, she cannot receive any of her retirement benefits.

Fogle and her daughters, Tara Montgomery and Jasmine Fogle, have been trying for months to find some way to convince the state retirement officials to allow Fogle to retain her council seat and receive her benefits. Montgomery said they were even told even if Fogle wanted to serve voluntarily and without pay, she would still not be eligible to receive her retirement benefits.

Instead, retirement officials made it clear that Fogle had two choices: (1) continue to serve on the city council and receive no benefits or (2) resign from the council and get her benefits, which include a pension and health insurance.

Considering that city council members are paid $300 per month before taxes are taken out, Fogle really only had one option.

Just like the other council members, Fogle takes her public duties seriously, and she has a sincere desire to serve her community. And, her community obviously wanted her to serve. In the most recent election on Nov. 6, she received 1,142 votes, more than any other council member. We find it completely ridiculous that Fogle is being cheated out of an opportunity to serve her hometown. Not to mention, the citizens of Lebanon are being cheated out of having an elected official of their own choosing.

It’s not fair, to her or to the people who voted for her.

We strongly encourage our local state legislators and other state officials to find a way to fix the flaws in these regulations. Civil servants should not be forced to decide between surviving and serving their communities.