ST. LOUIS – Usually you’ll hear about a garnishment against someone like a deadbeat parent who refuses to pay up. In this case, involving Missouri employee back pay, attorney Gary Burger says it’s the government that’s defying the law.
“I guess it doesn’t surprise me. … We’ve been litigating and trying to fight for this class for seven years now,” Burger said.
Last September, Burger won a historic lawsuit on behalf of Missouri corrections’ officers. They proved to a jury they’d been shorted more than $114 million dollars. Now Burger says the state is ignoring a court order while hiding behind an appeal.
“Everybody is entitled to their due process and so is the state but if you appeal something, you have to post a bond. That’s the rule. Everybody’s gotta play by the rules - even the state,” he said.
Burger says Missouri won’t do that as required, so he’s trying to get the state to follow the law another way.
“I found the two banks where the state does most of its business and I served them with a garnishment for $118 million,” he said.
The tab is more than $118 million and growing because of interest and penalties, increasing at a rate of $1.5 million a month, even under the appeal.
“A lot of people—we stayed on—for the outcome of this lawsuit thinking we’re finally going to get paid,” said former Department of Corrections Lt. Cody Umfress.
Umfress left the Department of Corrections after seven years of service, ending his duty at the Pacific Prison. He left for a higher paying job because he lost faith.
“The state of Missouri comes in and just deals a huge blow to everybody who’s in the Department of Corrections and it lowered the morale immensely,” Umfress said.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson recently announced 3 percent pay raises that are coming but no one will talk to me about the garnishment for backpay – not the governor, attorney general, or treasurer. A spokesperson for the DOC will only say they’re appealing while that judgment continues growing by the second.