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LORP suit heads to court July 1

SoVaNow.com / June 10, 2013
A court date is set July 1 to hear opening arguments in a lawsuit brought by retired school employees to reinstate the Local Option Retirement Plan (LORP), an early retirement package that the School Board abruptly cancelled in July 2012.

The lawsuit, filed in Halifax County Circuit Court, will be heard by a retired Pittsylvania County judge, Charles L. Strauss, who was appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to hear the case. Judge Strauss is retired but is still subject to recall and has accepted this case.

The July 1 hearing is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. when Strauss will hear arguments from attorneys for the retirees and the Halifax County School Board. He will decide whether the case will move forward.

The LORP lawsuit which was brought in January by 105 recently retired school employees. It calls on the Halifax County School Board to restore the Local Option Retirement Plan, which enabled long-term employees to retire while being able to earn 20 percent of their salaries at the time of retirement in return for filling in for work at the schools on a part-time or temporary basis. The program was designed to offer benefits over seven years.

Participants in the lawsuit have retained the services of a Richmond attorney with local ties, Ben Rand, a Halifax County High School graduate and son of the former juvenile court judge Michael Rand. Rand is an attorney with the Richmond firm of Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click. He is listed as co-counsel with Stephen Conte, a partner of the firm.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract by the School Board in canceling LORP benefits on July 24, 2012, which the lawsuit describes as being done “deliberately, willfully, arbitrarily and capriciously.” It demands that LORP benefits be reinstated and the plaintiffs be reimbursed for their legal expenses and other costs. It does not seek damages.

LORP was canceled by the School Board after Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon advised trustees that the program was projected to cost $9 million over the next seven years, thereby draining the school system’s budget and taking money away from higher school priorities.




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