October 20, 2016 03:40 PM
The Alabama Education Association continues to aggressively pursue litigation against the Public Education Employees (PEEHIP) Board of Control regarding the illegally-conducted meeting that produced the increase in out-of-pocket costs to AEA members that some are already experiencing and all will experience this month. The lawsuit, Remington v. Swindle, alleges that the Board violated the Open Meetings Act by conducting a private morning session of its April 27 meeting to debate the proposed increases before moving the meeting into the open in the afternoon session, at which time those increases were quickly adopted by a 7-6 vote.
Since the last issue of the Journal, AEA’s lawyers have been actively engaged in the discovery process. Depositions of Sarah Swindle, the Chair of the PEEHIP Board, and Joe Ward, retiree representative on the Board, were taken by AEA’s lawyers. PEEHIP’s lawyers then deposed AEA President Sheila Hocutt Remington, the plaintiff in the case, and AEA staff members Amy Marlowe and Susan Kennedy.
The next step in the process will be for both sides to file motions for summary judgment with the court. Each side will ask in those motions that Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Johnny Hardwick rule in their favor based upon the evidence in the record. After briefing is concluded, a hearing on those motions is tentatively set for Friday, December 9, 2016.
As previously reported, Judge Hardwick denied AEA’s request to prevent the increases from being taken out of members’ paychecks. In a compromise move, he allowed PEEHIP to collect the funds, but ordered they be placed in a separate, segregated account. This means that PEEHIP cannot spend the money and that refunds with interest can be issued quickly if Judge Hardwick sides with AEA and voids the increases.
AEA Associate Executive Director Theron Stokes said, “Our members need to know that we are fighting for them. We are using every tool at our disposal to expedite this case and to convince Judge Hardwick that the PEEHIP Board broke the law. Some individuals on the Board and within the PEEHIP staff knew that if AEA’s members found out what PEEHIP planned to do, they would work to defeat those increases. That is why PEEHIP knew they had to have an illegal, secret meeting and then a quick vote with no notice.”
Stokes said this matter could be resolved if the PEEHIP Board directed its staff to the negotiating table. He added, “AEA has been reaching out to PEEHIP for months to talk about ways to balance the need to keep PEEHIP financially sound and our members’ need for a pay raise.” He encouraged all AEA members to continue contacting their PEEHIP Board members to tell them how they feel about these increases, about how they were enacted, and about how AEA stands ready to work with PEEHIP to address funding issues in a way that does not cancel out their hard-earned pay raise.
A full update on the PEEHIP lawsuit will be featured in every issue of the Journal until the litigation is concluded. Breaking news will be delivered by e-mail and social media – like Alabama Education Association on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @myAEA for the latest PEEHIP updates.