Lawsuit Threat Looms in Pension Dispute Between Lansing and Ingham County

Lansing and Ingham County aren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye when it comes to some employee pension funds.

When the two combined 911 operations more than a year ago, Lansing was supposed to transfer the already-accumulated pensions to the county.

But Lansing still has not paid up, as a dispute continues between city and county officials over just how much Lansing actually owes.

Chad Gamble, chief operating officer for the city, says it's not a question of if the county will be paid, but how much.

"We acknowledge that we owe an amount of money to the county with regards to the transfer of assets," Gamble said. "What that number is, that is the crux of the matter."

Ingham County officials say the city owes $1.5 million in accumulated pensions and healthcare assets for the employees who were transferred in the 911 consolidation last summer.

Gamble begs to differ with that figure.

"There was a number that was discussed--an estimate--but that was never a firm number that came through the process by which was agreed to," he said.

Gamble contends the city wants to pay its fair share, but it does not want to overpay. They recently made an offer to the county of $885,000 after the city's pensions board conducted its own study with, what they say, is more up-to-date market data.

He added IRS rules prohibiting these types of transfers were among the complexities which prevented the city from paying the county immediately.

"We stand absolutely committed to doing what's right and we feel very confident that we can come up with an amicable solution with the county," Gamble said.

But for right now, the current offer on the table isn't one the county is willing to accept.

Along with the threat of a lawsuit, a resolution is also headed to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday which lays out specific timetables for Lansing to pay the county back, according to Tim Dolehanty, county controller.

"Really it's just saying we really want to get this thing resolved before January 15th," he said.

The resolution also lays out further options if a deal cannot be met by the January deadline, including bringing in a third-party arbitrator to iron things out.

"We'll all put out figures and facts on the table, we'll sort through them and on our own attempt to come up with a mutually agreeable number," Dolehanty said.

Dolehanty added he feels the city is sincere, which is getting negotiations off on the right foot.

The pensions in question cover 34 city dispatch workers who were transferred.

The Ingham County Board of Commissioners did agree in November to front Lansing's share of the pension cost until the city can transfer what it owes.

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