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Jasper delegation officer files $300,000 suit

The first and only delegation officer for S.C. House and Senate members from Jasper County has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $300,000 from her employers.

Helen Pittman has served as delegation officer for Jasper County since 2005. She filed the lawsuit Sept. 28 in the Court of Common Pleas against Jasper County, Hampton County, and state lawmakers who represent Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton and Hampton counties.

Pittman, who is retiring after almost three decades of qualified state service, seeks reimbursement for retirement benefits for which she has been held qualified by the Public Employees Benefits Agency, the complaint says.

“I have dedicated several decades to the citizens of Jasper County and have always done my best,” Pittman said. “I love the people of Jasper County and as any other Jasper County employee worked for their retirement, I did too.”

A statement from Pittman’s attorney J. Lewis Cromer said the delegation has resisted paying for her retirement and claims she is an “unfunded retiree.”

“My client did not want to bring this lawsuit and was forced to do so because of the way that she has been treated by certain members of the delegation over the last year of her service,” Cromer said.

“Ms. Pittman loves the residents of Jasper County and is willing to do anything she can to continue her personal support for them. She needs her health insurance and has earned her status as a qualified retiree. It is hoped that these issues can be promptly and fairly resolved.”

The lawsuit says an arrangement was reached years ago in which Hampton County would be responsible for collecting, withholding and reporting Pittman’s retirement and other financial obligations while she continued to serve as delegation officer for Jasper County.

This arrangement did not change the fact Pittman remained a Jasper County employee, the lawsuit says, and Jasper County remains responsible for the payment of her retirement and health insurance benefits. Some delegation members maintain Pittman was an employee of Hampton County.

The lawsuit says Pittman worked overtime at the request of her supervisors with the understanding she would be compensated as funds were available and at the time of her retirement.

She has not received the overtime and back pay, the suit says.

Pittman is seeking $80,000 for breach of contract and quantum meruit, and $300,000 for gross negligence.

Jasper County is being represented by Beaufort attorney David Tedder and Hampton County by Estill attorney A.G. Solomons.

The individuals named in the lawsuit are state Sen. Tom Davis, Rep. William K. “Bill” Bowers, Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, Rep. Bill Herbkersman and Rep. Weston Newton. The lawmakers are represented by Robert Achurch, an attorney with the Howell, Gibson and Hughes Law Firm in Beaufort.

Achurch did not respond last week to a request for comment.

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