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Judge Steven Rhodes, who is overseeing Detroit's bankruptcy case. / John Meiu, AP

DETROIT -- About 2,000 pensioners with a vote on Detroit's plan to cut retirement benefits received ballots with a significant error, a lawyer for retirees revealed in bankruptcy court Wednesday. The news did not please Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes.

The error relates to how much money the city wants back from some General Retirement System members' annuity savings accounts.

The amount some retirees would repay is supposed to be based on annuity fund transactions from 2003-2013, when the pension funds paid excessive interest credits, according to the city.

But a couple of thousand ballots went out with calculations based on the years 2002-2013. The errors mean some retirees are incorrectly being asked to give back more annuity savings money.

Carole Neville, an attorney representing the official retiree committee, said she is working with the city to work out a solution.

"We need to send out new ballots to those people," Neville said of those who received erroneous ballots.

Rhodes said the mistake could sway voters.

"This is very, very unfortunate," he said. "It will undoubtedly result in 'no' votes that might've otherwise been 'yes' votes just because of the confusion and the questions of the reliability of the data that's being provided."

The city's pensioners and retirees earlier this month started receiving ballots to vote on the city's plan to cut pension benefits as part of its restructuring plan. Pensioners are to send their ballots to a California balloting company by July 11.

For members of the General Retirement System, a "yes" vote would mean a 4.5% cut to a monthly pension check and a 15.5% monthly cap on a clawback of excessive interest credits paid to annuity savings accounts. A "no" vote would remove the clawback's cap and increase monthly pension check cuts to 27%. Cost of living adjustments are eliminated under both options.

Rhodes asked Bruce Bennett, a lawyer for the city, who was responsible for the error. Bennett said he did not know. Rhodes said he wants an answer by Friday.

Bill Nowling, Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr's spokesman, provided an answer Wednesday.

He said of the erroneous ballots, 1,100 were sent to active employees and 1,100 sent to retirees. He said they will all get new ballots and their old ballots will be canceled. He said the mistake was caught in a general review of the ballots that were sent out.

"It was a clerical error that we caught and corrected," Nowling said, adding it is not known how many people had already voted using the ballots with the wrong information.

"It was a failure to communicate," Neville said after the hearing. "It was an accident."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: 2,000 Detroit pension ballots have wrong info

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