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Plymouth Retirement Board v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

June 20, 2018

PLYMOUTH RETIREMENT BOARD
v.
CONTRIBUTORY RETIREMENT APPEAL BOARD et al.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF JUDGMENT ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          Michael D. Ricciuti, Justice of the Superior Court

          The plaintiff, the Plymouth Retirement Board ("PRB"), brought this action seeking judicial review of a decision of one of the defendants, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board ("CRAB"), which requires PRB to collect money from one of its members, a police officer by the name of Antonio Gomes ("Gomes")-money that PRB had refunded to Gomes a decade earlier as the result of direction given by defendant Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission ("PERAC") and based on PERAC’s then-view of the law, the diametric opposite of CRAB’s current view.

         PRB moves for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that CRAB’s reading of the applicable statute, G.L.c. 32, § 4(2)(b) and (c), is erroneous as a matter of law, and asks this Court to vacate CRAB’s decision and remand the matter back to CRAB. In response, CRAB and PERAC (collectively, "CRAB") oppose and cross move for judgment on the pleadings, seeking an affirmation of CRAB’s statutory interpretation and order.

         As detailed below, the Court concludes that CRAB’s current reading of the law is in error. Accordingly, PRB’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is ALLOWED, and CRAB’s motion is DENIED. This matter is REMANDED to CRAB for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are not disputed. This Court adopts the findings of fact from the Division of Administrative Law Appeals ("DALA") with CRAB’s minor corrections.[1]

         Between June 21, 1987 and June 27, 1991, Gomes worked as a permanent-intermittent police officer for the Town of Plymouth. Because he worked as a permanent-intermittent or temporary full-time police officer throughout that period, Gomes was not eligible for membership in the Plymouth Retirement System. On July 31, 1992, Gomes was appointed as a permanent officer of the Plymouth Police Department, and subsequently granted membership into the Plymouth Retirement System on October 4, 1992.

         In both 1994 and 1998, Gomes was informed that he could purchase and receive credit for up to five years of prior permanent-intermittent service pursuant to G.L.c. 32, § 4(2)(b). In 1998, Gomes decided to purchase such credit through payroll-deductions over a two-year period, and did so for a payment in excess of $5, 000.

         In 2003, following an audit of PRB, PERAC notified PRB that it should not have required members, like Gomes, who had served as permanent-intermittent police officers to remit contributions to PRB to receive credit for service. PRB thereafter refunded Gomes the contributions he had made to receive that credit.

         On June 21, 2013, CRAB issued a decision in MacAloney v. Worcester Regional Retirement System, CR-11-19 (June 21, 2013), which PRB contends reversed decades of PERAC practice, in which CRAB found that § 4(2)(b) required MacAloney, an on-call firefighter, to remit contributions to his retirement system in order to receive credit for prior service. Following this ruling, PERAC issued a series of three memoranda instructing retirement boards on implementing MacAloney. As a result, PRB notified Gomes that he would be required to return the funds that he had previously paid and which had been refunded to him in order to receive credit for his past service.

          Gomes filed a timely appeal with DALA, which on February 5, 2016, ruled that under MacAloney, Gomes was required to remit contributions, with interest, pursuant to § 4(2)(b). Gomes appealed to CRAB, which reaffirmed its reasoning in MacAloney as applied to Gomes’ service as a permanent-intermittent police officer and required that Gomes remit payment in order to receive retirement credit for that service. Under the order, PRB is required to collect the payments and interest from Gomes.

         PRB brought this action pursuant to G.L.c. 30A, § 14. Gomes has not appealed CRAB’s decision.

         DISCUSSION

         A. PRB ...


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