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Wednesday, May 7, 2008 08:33 am

Lost

Ex-state worker finds out the hard way that agencies can destroy records

Untitled Document The State Employees’ Retirement System is looking for former public employees who may be eligible for benefits — but if they don’t come forward fast enough, they could be out of luck. Take the case of Clint Benton Jr., a former Department of Corrections employee who now lives in Memphis, Tenn. Benton, 77, says the SERS owes him $6,357.22 that he paid into the retirement plan between 1963 and 1972. SERS officials say a refund was issued in Benton’s name in 1986 but that the funds were intercepted by the state comptroller to pay another state agency. That can happen, for example, if the former employee owes child support. Benton insists that there must have been a mistake. He maintains that he has never owed money to any agency and adds that his two children have lived with him since birth. Unfortunately for him, if there was a snafu somewhere in the system, he won’t be able to prove it.
Charles Ketchum, a representative of the SERS refund division, says the agency routinely destroys old records to make room for new ones. Ketchum, who has investigated Benton’s case, says he also checked with the Department of Children and Family Services to determine whether Benton owed any child support. Those records, too, have been destroyed, Ketchum says.
The comptroller’s office, which diverted Benton’s refund, also doesn’t keep documents older than seven years, so there’s no way to ascertain which agency withheld his money. Benton wonders why the agencies can produce a copy of the check and refund warrant but no records indicating which agency intercepted the funds. “That’s what puzzles me. They had to send it somewhere, and they know where they sent it to and who signed for it. Those records should stay on file forever,” Benton says. Ketchum calls Benton’s “a rare case.”
Benton, meanwhile, advises state workers to withdraw their contributions as soon as possible to avoid ending up in his situation. “I think the public should know about this and other state employees should know,” he says.
“It don’t make no kind of sense.”

Do you know a “lost” potential beneficiary of the state retirement system? Go to www.state.il.us/srs/ SERS/inactive.htm for a list of names.

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com
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