published Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Convicted Hamilton sheriff received improper retirement benefits

by Dan Whisenhunt
  • photo
    Staff File Photo by Dan Henry Former Sheriff Billy Long is led out of the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and Courthouse after being sentenced to 14 years.

Hamilton County government is taking responsibility for an oversight that resulted in illegal pension payments to the county’s imprisoned former sheriff.

In the nearly two years since former sheriff Billy Long was sentenced for multiple crimes, including selling drugs and money laundering, he has received more than $50,000 in monthly retirement benefits, but now he will have to repay nearly $4,000 he received as an overpayment, according to the state Treasury Department. And he will not be entitled to any future benefits.

The retirement payments stopped Tuesday after the Times Free Press asked the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System about payments made to former elected officials convicted of felonies.

The state Treasury Department, which administers the program, discovered the error when looking up the information. The department reported that the county did not notify the TCRS of Long’s federal indictment and conviction, and has continued to pay him long since he was sentenced in November 2008. As of Aug. 31, Long had received $50,456.

Steve Curry, assistant to the state Treasurer for programs, said his office is now asking the state attorney general to see whether the state should try to recoup the money.

“The financial responsibility for the retirement program rests with Hamilton County,” Curry said. “They pay an employer contribution that helps pay the retirement benefits of their employees.”

County Administrator of Finance Louis Wright said the Treasury Department has contacted him and he said it was the county’s responsibility to notify the state of Long’s indictment and conviction.

“That statute (disqualifying him) was adopted in 2006 and clearly it has flown under our radar,” Wright said.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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harrystatel said...

Sounds like Billy qualifies for a position on the Hamilton County School Board.

Hey Janice, are you and Billy kin?

Harry Statel

September 3, 2010 at 12:06 p.m.
Salsa said...

I don't believe that this happened accidentally. Someone knew it was happening and kept silent.

September 3, 2010 at 12:24 p.m.

Yet another blunder by our government and to think that some folks want more of it.

September 3, 2010 at 12:31 p.m.
Tax_Payer said...

Good job TFP! Billy Long, former law enforcement top dog, should of known that it is illegal to collect retirement. It looks like Mr. Long will be getting arrested again.

September 3, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.
deltenney said...

The above contention speaks for itself:

"County Administrator of Finance Louis Wright said the Treasury Department has contacted him and he said it was the county’s responsibility to notify the state of Long’s indictment and conviction."

Maybe the person who allowed the slip to occur should also bear some responsibility here. Good work on the part of the CNFP.

September 3, 2010 at 4:23 p.m.
fairmon said...

Good job by the local paper again. It is unfortunate they are unable to have as many investigative reporters as they once had. A paper willing to report the news without fear or favor can be as valuable as an independent financial audit which the city and county should both have performed with details reported in the paper. Paying utilities on abandoned and unused properties, paying pensions that should not be, spending $85,000 on office furniture, Spending without the approval triangle that most sizable businesses use. There is no telling how many dollars are ill spent in addition to the frivolous spending within the cities country club management style.

September 3, 2010 at 5:11 p.m.
notlittletommy said...

Excellent reporting, Dan. Keep up the good work.

September 3, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.
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