Friday, November 17, 2017
News Roundup

Pension error could cost New Port Richey widow nearly $27,000


NEW PORT RICHEY — Shirley Findel lives in a two-bedroom house in Gulf Harbors that her husband, Harry, inherited from his father. With 1 1/2 baths and pink shutters, it was built in 1972.

She drives a 2004 Mercury.

"I only drive it to Publix and church," said Mrs. Findel, whose accent is a mix of Southern belle and New York beat cop.

She and Harry, a hazel-eyed Marine she married in 1954 after they met at a dance in her native North Carolina, lived frugally as he worked 23 years as an engineer for the Long Island Railroad and she raised their two kids. He opted for a pension plan that had a lower payout but would allow his bride to be supported after his death.

When her husband died, the 79-year-old widow mailed a copy of his death certificate to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The checks that arrived were for a different amount from what they had previously received. When she called about the discrepancy, the agency followed up with a letter.

After reviewing the records, the letter said, "it came to our attention that Mr. Findel's monthly pension was processed incorrectly."

The result? A $26,707 overpayment that the agency says Mrs. Findel must repay.

If she can't pay the amount in full, the letter said, she can choose a payment plan. If she doesn't pay up or formally dispute the findings in 30 days, it said, she could lose the entire pension.

"I got bad news and more bad news," Mrs. Findel said.

The letter explained that when Harry Findel turned 65 in 1995 and the pension took effect, the couple was overpaid $124.80 for 214 months. That's nearly 18 years.

Mrs. Findel said she was offered a plan to have $240 a month deducted from her check for the next nine years.

"I'm 79," she said. "Am I going to live to be 90? I don't know. Will they then try to take it from my family?"

Mrs. Findel, whose only other source of income is her husband's Social Security benefits, said she might have to sell her house if she loses the pension.

Her blood pressure has skyrocketed since the letter came last month.

"The stress has been horrible," she said.

Her daughter, Linda Box, who lives in Brentwood, N.Y., was outraged.

"When she got the letter she was hysterical," said Box, who contacted reporter after reporter in hopes someone would pick up the story.

"I thought it should be out there," Box said.

Newsday jumped on the tip. It ran a front page article Wednesday detailing Mrs. Findel's plight. It went viral.

Since then, the phones haven't stopped ringing.

"Someone called from Canada," Box said. She said she also called elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. An attorney told her the MTA's actions were likely legal, she said, but "is it the morally right thing do?"

No, Box said.

"It was their mistake," Box said. "My parents weren't rich. These are middle-class people."

Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for MTA, said in a statement that the pension has a "fiduciary duty to the participants and beneficiaries of the trust to recover funds that are improperly paid to a beneficiary, even if it is the result of an inadvertent error."

The statement went on to say that the agency would work with Mrs. Findel to reach "a fair and equitable solution."

Mrs. Findel said the agency should own up to its error.

"I was taught and I taught my children to take responsibility for their mistakes," she said. "I should not have to pay for (the MTA's) mistake."


Region football: Clearwater Central Catholic 37, Calvary Christian 10

CLEARWATER — The ice bath ensued for Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey after the Marauders’ 37-10 victory over Calvary Christian in Friday’s Class 3A region final. The win placed the Marauders (11-0) in their fifth state tournament since...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

MELBOURNE — With 1 yard separating Plant from an incredible come-from-behind victory, or a devastating defeat, it all came down to a matter of trust.And for Panthers coach Robert Weiner, there was no one he would put more faith in to get that 1 yard ...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

SEFFNER — Hillsborough conquered one nemesis with last week’s win over Class 6A defending state finalist Lake Gibson, the team that knocked the Terriers out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago.But there was an even bigger stumbling block to...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Region football: Ocala Vanguard 35, Mitchell 31

NEW PORT RICHEY — The start wasn’t quite befitting of a playoff game between undefeated teams, but the end of Friday’s war between Ocala Vanguard and Mitchell certainly was.Like last year’s Class 6A regional semifinal, the Mustangs held a three-point...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

ZEPHYRHILLS — For Zephyrhills, Friday night’s Class 5A region semifinal against Green Cove Springs Clay was doomed by 12 bad minutes. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime but allowed 28 unanswered points in the third quarter and were not able ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood came into Friday’s playoff game knowing its defense had to help control field position against Jesuit. The Spartans (9-1) left Friday’s game with a ticket to Immokalee for a region final — and six Tigers (6-5) turnovers en r...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Region football: Tampa Bay Tech 42, Palmetto 26

TAMPA — Another Friday night, another offensive explosion.Tampa Bay Tech’s offense continued its torrid pace and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. accounted for five total touchdowns as the Titans rolled past Palmetto 42-26 in a Class 7A, Region 3 semifi...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Region football: Cambridge Christian 50, Indian Rocks Christian 14

TAMPA — The Cambridge Christian offense was clicking, and quarterback Jaylin Jackson couldn’t seem to be stopped. Still, as the second quarter clock dwindled, Indian Rocks Christian was hanging around.So with just more than a minute left in the half,...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Region football: Naples 24, Largo 0

NAPLES — In a game between two teams that had never met with a lot on the line, the Naples defense came up with one of its best efforts against Largo on Friday night.The Golden Eagles limited the Packers to 117 yards of offense in a 24-0 triumph in t...
Updated: 1 hour ago