- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A small group of retired state workers and teachers covered under the proposed deal to end the legal wrangling over Rhode Island’s pension overhaul filed a new suit Thursday challenging the law and objecting to their inclusion in any class-action settlement.

The suit says a class cannot “fairly and adequately” protect all retirees’ interests and calls the pension changes in the 2011 law - including a suspension of cost-of-living increases - a breach of contract. That argument is among those made in the original lawsuits filed by public-sector unions and retirees.

A proposed settlement to resolve those challenges was announced in February by Gov. Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. The deal - the product of more than a year of closed-door court-ordered talks - would roll back some of the law’s changes and give retirees modest pension increases.

In the 29-page suit, first reported by The Providence Journal, several dozen retirees ask the judge to order that they not be included as one of the classes in the proposed settlement. They also want a jury trial on their other claims.

Thursday is the deadline for ballots to be returned in the initial round of voting on the settlement. Counting by an independent firm is expected to begin on Friday, though it’s not clear when results will be available. They must first be reported to the court.

If union members and retirees ratify the settlement, the General Assembly would also then have to approve it. Any changes would void the agreement, and the lawsuit would proceed to a trial that’s scheduled for September.

Faye Zuckerman, Chafee’s spokeswoman, and Joy Fox, Raimondo’s spokeswoman, said in a joint statement that there appears to be nothing new in the suit.

“We won’t be commenting on this pending litigation, and will continue to work toward completion of the process laid out in the settlement agreement which is in the interest of all parties.

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