LOWELL -- The city's Retirement Board has declined to repay a former library assistant, who has filed legal claims against the city, the funds she has paid into the Lowell Retirement System.
Retirement Board Administrator Shannon Dowd wrote a letter to former library assistant Diane Cloutier late last week stating that she could not process her "Withdrawal of Accumulated Deductions" application due to her employment status with the city.
"This office has been informed that you did not resign nor were you terminated from your position with the Pollard Memorial Library," Dowd wrote. "We cannot refund any member unless they are no longer employed with the City of Lowell.
"If your status has changed, please provide this office with either a copy of your resignation letter or termination notification from the City of Lowell."
Dowd's determination that Cloutier had not been terminated or resigned was based on information provided by the city, a separate entity from the Retirement Board.
Cloutier, 52, alleges she was terminated late last October after more than 15 years working at the library.
The city provided her with a letter Oct. 29 stating she could no longer work at the library because of her doctor's work restrictions, and Cloutier was told to gather her stuff and depart the facility.
Cloutier was soon after taken off the city payroll, and her city health insurance was terminated.
The city denies it terminated Cloutier, who has filed two legal claims against the city and city employees with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination.
Lana Sullivan, Cloutier's attorney, was critical of the city's refusal to acknowledge they terminated her client, which she said is preventing Cloutier from receiving the funds she paid into the Retirement System.
Sullivan said Cloutier's unemployment has run out and her client needs the retirement funds to live on.
"There is no justification for blocking my client's receipt of funds," said Sullivan, of Davids & Cohen in Wellesley. "It is her money.
"This is another example of the city's personal and petty agenda to retaliate and discriminate against my client."
Sullivan said she and Cloutier are reviewing their options in responding to the Retirement Board's decision, including potentially seeking a hearing before the board.
Dowd said the amount of money Cloutier is seeking to be repaid is not a public record. Twenty percent of the funds are deducted from the refund amount for federal tax, and Cloutier would have to pay an additional 10 percent penalty when she files her taxes.
Cloutier's annual salary was $35,610.
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