County pension chief resigns over overpayment

The head of Milwaukee County's retirement system was asked to resign after a new pension payment error was made public.

Letters have been mailed to county retirees notifying them of this latest mistake, and an upcoming review of other pension payment calculations.

Gerry Broderick gets a county pension, and served as a county supervisor for 14 years.

"I was elected as a result of the pension scandal back in 2002," he says.

Now, there appears to be another scandal of sorts. County officials confirm county pension chief Marian Ninneman is out of a job, after failing to correct the ongoing overpayment of a former county employee's pension to the tune of $140,000.

That person's widow is now being asked to pay it all back. County officials say Ninneman was alerted of the problem twice in the past three years, but did not fix it.

Broderick questions the county putting all blame on Ninneman.

"There's a tendency to deflect blame from those on top," he says. "It's like you can get rid of someone, say they were the cause - which is what I think happened here - and then move on blamelessly into the future. Marian Ninneman had a reputation for really improving the pension system, and correcting all sorts of errors that were made by past administrators. And she answered people's questions honestly unlike some others in that system."

But current County Supervisor Dr. Sheldon Wasserman tells TODAY'S TMJ4 that Ninneman is the one that should be held accountable, because she's been telling county officials that the pension payment system is under control and accurate.

"I'm so sick of pension scandals," Wasserman says. "If the county keeps failing at this, then we should not be in charge of this. It's obviously broken, but we can't fix it."

After this latest error, Wasserman is proposing that the State of Wisconsin's Department of Employee Trust Funds start controlling Milwaukee County's pension system. He hopes to put it up for a vote next month.

"The state of Wisconsin's pension fund team is the best in the nation," Wasserman says. "We're the only county in Wisconsin that still handles its own pension system."

But that's something that also raises a red flag for Broderick.

"To turn it over to this state government, would cause me to have deep concerns," he says. "The pensions are owned by the people who are going to collect them, perhaps they should have the vote in who's going to administer their pension."

County Executive Chris Abele issued this statement: "While the system is currently sustainable and retirees can feel secure about the promise of their earned benefits, I want to take steps to ensure that future employees and retirees have that same security. I also want the taxpayers to feel confident that their dollars are being managed wisely."

Milwaukee County's Risk Management Director, Amy Pachacek, who is now serving as interim director of the retirement system, added this: "The pension system is complex as there are literally hundreds of different benefit calculations. While substantial improvements to our system have been made over the past recent years, we need to continue to increase standardization and auditability of procedures, as well as transparency. We will work with independent auditors to correct this particular overpayment and to identify areas for process and systems improvements. We will also perform stress-testing on the system as a whole to prevent future errors as much as possible by employing best-in-class practices."

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