Family To Receive Pension Money After Review
By Ben Hall
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Metro Council is taking action following a NewsChannel 5 investigation.
Council members are expected to approve a deal that will give the family of a longtime Metro employee, who died after a battle with lung cancer, part of the employee's pension.
Vicki Spurlock began crying when she heard the news.
"Because of my faith in God, I didn't give up, but I did feel like a lot of times it might be over," Spurlock said.
She sued Metro nearly three years ago, trying to make sure her mom's dying wish was fulfilled.
Spurlock says Combs signed paperwork before she died that Combs thought provided her beneficiaries with some of her pension.
"We fought. We fought for mom, not the money. This has always been about my mom being done right," Spurlock said.
In 2009, 72-year-old Mavis Combs retired as a secretary in the Metro Police Department after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
But as we first reported, Metro denied Combs pension and kept the money based on a technicality, claiming she never filled out the proper paperwork.
A Metro judge ruled that because Combs had not filled out all the paperwork Metro was able to keep her pension.
But the issue was personal for Metro Councilman Bill Pridemore.
He worked with Mavis Combs in the Homicide Division when he was a detective.
"Once I saw your story, I just felt like something needed to be done," Pridemore said.
"I didn't want the police department or Metro government as a whole to look like a bad guy here," Pridemore said.
Pridemore and Council Member Megan Barry co-sponsored a resolution that gives Combs' family approximately $67,000 minus legal fees.
That is close to the amount Combs would have received in a lump sum payment right before she died.
"It's the right thing to do for this family. It's the right way to fix a problem that never should have happened," Council Member Megan Barry said.
Barry said it is highly unusual to get the council involved, but she wanted to do something.
"There was some great reporting done about this issue, and there was some really good information that I don't think many council members knew about," Barry said.
Our investigation revealed that as Combs battled lung cancer, Metro demanded a copy of her social security card to process her pension.
Metro made the demand even though Combs' social security number was in her employee file more than 70 times.
We also found that Combs' family frantically called the Metro employee overseeing Combs pension asking for advice, multiple times, but the employee never called back.
In fact, that employee was later forced to quit for poor job performance, including not returning calls in a timely manner.
"I'm just very grateful. I'm grateful to Channel 5, and I'm grateful to the Metro Council," Spurlock said.
Spurlock said the first thing she'll do with the money is get a headstone for her mom's grave.
"She still has no marker two and a half years later," Spurlock said.
Two and a half years of legal battles and fighting will soon be over.
After the council action, Spurlock said her mom can rest in peace and her family can move on.
"I believe there's a heaven and I believe she's seeing it, but it's still hard that we had to go through this," Spurlock said.
The resolution that the council will vote on encourages Metro to settle the ongoing lawsuit with Combs' family and enter into an agreement in the case.
It was written in such a way as not to influence other pension cases in Metro courts.
- September 17, 2012: Metro Reviews Pension Application Process
- July 10, 2012: Council Members Demand Review Of Pension Process
- June 28, 2012: Woman With Terminal Cancer Denied Pension
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