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Metro Reviews Pension Application Process

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By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Metro Pension Committee is ordering a review of how the Metro Human Resources Department processes employee pensions following a NewsChannel 5 investigation.

It comes as two Metro council members consider legislation to help the family of an employee denied her pension.

Council members Megan Berry and Bill Pride more asked the Employee Benefit Board to review what happened in the case of Mavis Combs.

"How do we make sure this doesn't happen to somebody else in the future," asked Councilwoman Megan Berry during the special meeting of the Pension Committee.

Mavis Combs spent most of her 40 year career working as a secretary in the Metro Police Department.

She retired in 2009, and died after a battle with lung cancer in 2010.

Metro claims she never signed the appropriate pension paperwork, so her estimated $250,000 pension was not calculated.

Therefore, Metro kept the pension, and her family was not entitled to receive the benefits she worked a lifetime to earn.

"I believe they stole her money," said her daughter Vicki Spurlock. "No less than they have stolen her money."

Spurlock has been fighting to claim Combs' pension.

Our investigation revealed, as Combs battled lung cancer, Metro demanded a copy of her social security card to process her pension.

Combs' social security number was in her employee file more than 70 times.

Combs, who was 72 years old, died before the family resolved the issue involving the card.

"She told me they want me to die so they can keep my money," Vicki Spurlock remembered her mom saying.

Pension Committee member B.R. Hall says this case is a chance to improve the system.

"I think it's a little ridiculous for them to say well you have to have the card," Hall said in the meeting.

Board members may recommend that Metro no longer require a copy of a retiree's social security card when the social security number is already on file and may ask that pension applications from terminally ill retirees be fast-tracked through the system.

But the board does not have the power to give Combs' family her pension.

"If we want to do anything for Mavis Combs it will have to come through the council. That's what we want to investigate to see if we can," said Councilman Bill Pridemore, who once worked with Combs.

Pridemore says even though courts have ruled against the family, he's concerned that our investigation discovered the Metro employee who handled Combs' pension application, delayed the time sensitive case by not returning numerous phone calls from the family, who had important questions about what information they needed to provide.

The Metro employee was later forced to quit for poor job performance.

Even some board members hope the family gets the money.

"We have an obligation to attempt to right all wrongs, whatever they may be," said B.R. Hall.

But the board is considering an even bigger change to the pension process.

Currently, if you have a husband or dependent a child and you die before your pension is processed, your pension automatically goes to them.

But Mavis Combs had no husband or dependent child, so Metro kept the money.

The board is reviewing whether that policy is unfair to unmarried people with no children.

 Email: bhall@newschannel5.com

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