Irrevocable Trust Could Safeguard Pensions at Bay Medical Sacred Heart

By: Cameron Taylor Email
By: Cameron Taylor Email
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PANAMA CITY - Bay County commissioners are asking local state leaders to help them protect the pensions of Bay Medical Sacred Heart employees .

The county's legal staff is proposing the legislature create an irrevocable trust to safeguard the pensions, but the county needs the local legislative delegation's approval for the bill to move forward.

Since late October, Bay County commissioners have been searching for a way to protect Bay Medical Sacred Heart's pensions.

That's when they received an opinion from the state's attorney general telling them they would be liable for the pensions if the fund ran out of money.

"For me, the most important thing is to protect the assets that are set aside for those employees that have retired or in the process of retiring from Bay Medical. They have a vested interest in the health and the soundness of that fund," said Guy Tunnell, Bay County Commission Chairman.

Among the attorney general's recommendations was the creation of an irrevocable trust that would act as a pension safeguard.

"It would guarantee the money to the employees over there and guarantee that the trust would always be solvent and also eliminate the possibility of Bay County having to use Bay County tax money to pay it," said George Gainer, Bay County Commissioner.

The county is currently liable for more than $100 million worth of pensions, about $15 million is unfunded.

Commissioners appointed George Gainer to the Bay Health Foundation earlier this month, to help keep a eye on the situation.

"With allowing one of our board members, one of our board of county commissioners, to sit on that board, that would have accomplished everything in the beginning. That would have taken away the argument that we didn't know what was going on," said Tunnell.

That appointment is under fire. There's confusion from both sides as to whether the county had the authority to appoint Gainer.

The local legislative delegation which includes Representative Jimmy Patronis will be meeting early next month to consider several bills of local interest, including the irrevocable trust and the appointment of members to the Bay Health Foundation.


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