Heard: October 11, 2017.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on
September 15, 2015.
case was heard by Shannon Frison, J., on motions for judgment
on the pleadings.
Michael Sacco for the plaintiff.
F. Gibson for Middlesex County Retirement Board.
Present: Milkey, Massing, & Ditkoff, JJ.
Worcester Regional Retirement Board (WRRB) appeals from a
judgment of the Superior Court, which affirmed a decision of
the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB) requiring the
WRRB to permit a former member to purchase nine additional
months of creditable service. At issue is whether the
WRRB is responsible for not having enrolled the employee,
Brian Pierce, as of the day he became eligible for
membership, or whether Pierce had an affirmative obligation
to ensure that he had been enrolled as of his start date.
CRAB determined that the responsibility lay with the WRRB,
not the employee; that the retirement system records should
be corrected to reflect Pierce's nine months of
uncredited membership; and that Pierce should be permitted to
buy back the time of which he had erroneously been deprived.
Discerning no legal error or abuse of discretion on
CRAB's part, we affirm.
began permanent, full-time employment as a third-class
lineman for the Princeton Municipal Light Department, which
is a member unit of the Worcester Regional Retirement System
(WRRS), on December 6, 1982. On October 24, 1983, Pierce
completed a new entrant enrollment form "[i]n order that
[he] may be properly enrolled" in the
WRRS. The WRRB stamped the form as received
on November 18, 1983. The form correctly indicated that
Pierce's full-time permanent employment had begun on
December 6, 1982. The WRRB enrolled Pierce as a member as of
September 1, 1983, crediting him with service prior to its
receipt of his enrollment form, but not for the first nine
months of his employment starting on December 6, 1982.
service with the town of Princeton ended on May 1, 1986, when
he took a similar position with the Middle borough Light
Department. At that time, Pierce became a member of the
Plymouth County Retirement System, and his funds in the WRRS,
representing two years and eight months of service (September
1, 1983, to May 1, 1986) were transferred to the Plymouth
system. After ten years and one month of service in Middle
borough, Pierce went to work for the Littleton Light
Department, and his funds within the Plymouth system were
transferred to the Middlesex County Retirement System (MCRS).
On June 30, 2008, after eleven years and nine months of
service in Littleton, Pierce retired from service with
superannuation retirement benefits through the
before his retirement, Pierce initiated a request to purchase
from the WRRS the nine months of full-time service for which
he had not received credit. Following a series of
communications among Pierce, the town of Princeton, the WRRB,
and the MCRS, the WRRB declined to accept Pierce's
request and denied liability for his noncontributing service
joined by the MCRS, timely appealed from the WRRB's
decision to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals
(DALA). A DALA magistrate concluded that because Pierce
correctly indicated his start date when he applied for
membership, "the WRRB had notice of [his] membership
status and eligibility to purchase that service as of the
date he became a member." The magistrate further stated,
"There was no additional onus on [Pierce] to be
proactive and request to purchase said service at that time.
[Pierce] was entitled to retroactive membership from the
moment the WRRB accepted the enrollment form. The omission
was an error of the board." Accordingly, the magistrate
concluded that "the omission of [Pierce] from the system
from his date of hire through September 16 [sic],
1983 was an error of the WRRB which must be corrected
pursuant to G. L. c. 32, § 20(5) (c) (1) ."
WRRB appealed from the DALA magistrate's decision to
CRAB. CRAB adopted the magistrate's findings and
conclusions, adding, "Pierce's application for
membership listed his date of hire and should have resulted
in his enrollment commencing on that date, with any makeup
payments necessary. Under these circumstances he was not