BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — The Alabama Education Association has announced that it will sue Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin in relation to letters the system sent out demanding payment of tens of thousands of dollars by employees who were allegedly overpaid due to payroll errors.

The professional association said in a press release that the lawsuit “will seek to prevent any monies deducted from the employees who are also plaintiffs in the case.”

The AEA’s suit will be on behalf of two employees in the system, Christie Payne and Shellie Smith, who were told by the system that they owed $23,000 and $32,000 because of repeated overpayments.

Christie Payne is a lunchroom manager at Verbena High (Courtesy photo)

Christie Payne, a lunchroom manager at Verbena High School, was told she owes $23,465.40, dating back to the 2016-2017 school year.

Shellie Smith, wife of Chilton County School Board member Chris Smith, was sent a letter by the district asking her to repay over $33,000 they said she was overcompensated as a result of repeated payroll errors.

AEA’s press release said that the letters demanding repayment amounted to an “illegal act.”

“This illegal act has caused Christie Payne and Shellie Smith and their families emotional and financial hardship,” the statement said.

In his only statement on the issue, Superintendent Jason Griffin said that the system is required to recoup the money.

“We cannot comment on specific personnel matters,” a joint statement from Griffin and board officials said. “The Chilton County Board of Education recently discovered several overpayments. These overpayments date back several years, and were initiated prior to the tenure of the current Finance Department, Superintendent, and Board. Under Board policy and the law, board officials are required to recoup any overpayments. We are mindful of the financial impact that this matter can have on our employees, and we are working to balance that impact with our obligation to recover the funds.”

The employees represented by AEA in the lawsuit are not the only individuals to receive letters demanding repayments.

A bus driver who’s worked for the school system for two decades was also sent a letter. He said he has no plans to respond to the letter or repay the money.

“It’s their mistake,” he said. “Why do the little people have to pay for it?”