- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - Jackson County leaders say they haven’t found theft or embezzlement in their investigation of the Singing River Health System’s failing pension plan.

The board of supervisors issued a news release Tuesday night. Board attorney Billy Guice said in the release that county leaders are trying to find a solution to the hospital’s pension failure without a tax increase.

He also says the cost of defending the lawsuits over the plan is currently being paid by the hospital system’s liability insurance carrier and not being charged to the trust.

Guice also said supervisors were not advised and had no knowledge that health system officials had decided to stop contributing to the pension fund after 2009.

Guice said a year before that big decision was made, the Employers’ Retirement Plan and Trust reportedly suffered a 25 percent investment loss. He said there is no evidence that any Health System senior officer withdrew his or her individual contributions in anticipation of the failure of the Pension Trust.

Guice also said health system officials are not taking money out of the pension to pay for defense lawyers to handle the pending lawsuits against them. The payment is coming from SRHS’ Officer and Director Liability insurance carrier.

The SRHS Board of Trustees has agreed to keep the pension making monthly payments while trying to hammer out a way to salvage the plan, which attorneys now say is $150 million underfunded.

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