CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — On Wednesday, a settlement was reached between Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin and Chilton County employees, Christie Payne and Shellie Smith, after nearly two years of deliberation over repeated payroll mistakes. 

In April 2022, Payne, a child nutrition manager at Verbena High School, received a letter from Chilton County Schools, signed by Griffin, stating that she had to repay over $23,000 after a payroll mistake caused her to be overpaid for nearly six years.

Payne was given three options for repaying the money: a monthly payment of $325.91 for 72 months, an annual payment of $3,910.90 for the following six years, or a lump sum payment. 

If Payne objected to the overpayment, the letter said she would have seven days to propose a different repayment schedule. The letter went on to state that every month the payment was “not taken care of,” $254 would be added to the total amount Payne owed. 

Shellie Smith, wife of Chilton County School Board member Chris Smith, was also sent a letter, which asked her to repay over $33,000 she received from payroll errors.

An anonymous bus driver with Chilton County Schools received a letter as well, which said he owed $10,182. 

The Alabama Education Association announced in May 2022 that it would be suing Griffin on behalf of Payne and Smith. 

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

Later that month, the entire school board was ordered to appear in court

In June 2022, Griffin filed to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming immunity; This was later overruled when the judge ruled to allow the lawsuit to move forward

On Wednesday, that lawsuit was settled before a trial even began. 

“It has been a pleasure for the AEA to represent these great women, who have endured so much throughout this nearly two-year lawsuit where they simply sought to protect their rights,” the AEA said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is the intent of the AEA always to protect members like Ms. Payne and Ms. Smith, who have been forced to pay for school boards’ errors.”