Courts gavel scales

Forsyth County officials have paid $78,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged county officials broke state law in not paying retirement benefits to a retired Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy.

Jonah E. Wood worked for the sheriff’s office in various capacities until he retired on Sept. 30, 2014. He filed the lawsuit in Forsyth Superior Court in September 2015.

The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought back to court, on March 29, according to court documents. Forsyth County commissioners approved the $78,000 settlement at their Feb. 13 meeting.

County Manager Dudley Watts declined to comment. James Morgan, the attorney who represented the county, said he could not comment.

Robert Elliot, an attorney representing Wood, said last week that he could not comment on the settlement.

Wood began working as a Forsyth County deputy sheriff in the county’s jail in 1990 and stayed there until 2008. Then he became a lieutenant in support services and training and also worked as a procurement manager. In 2010, he became a sergeant in court security, a post he held until his retirement in 2014.

The lawsuit alleged that Wood was entitled to a law-enforcement officer allowance once he retired and that the county also was required by state law to contribute 5 percent of his monthly income to a supplemental retirement account, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the county failed to pay Wood the allowance, which he is entitled to until age 62, and also did not contribute to his supplemental retirement account until 2008. At the time of the lawsuit, Wood was in his 50s.

According to the lawsuit, Sheriff Bill Schatzman told Wood that he was not entitled to the county’s contribution to the supplemental retirement account because he worked at the jail.

The lawsuit said Wood never raised any issues because county officials misrepresented his rights and he feared losing his job. Elliot told the Winston-Salem Journal in 2015 that Wood’s losses from the county were about $150,000.

Morgan denied all the allegations in his answer to the lawsuit.

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mhewlett@wsjournal.com 336-727-7326 @mhewlettWSJ

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