Monday, May 24, 2021

Update: Appeal - June 10 - Nespoli Case - Trial Court Decision (May 11, 2021) - Tier 6 - Sanitation - Corrections - DA Investigators

Update

The decision was appealed on 6/10/2021 -- Check index number = <159601-2016

Decision

Finally on May 11, 2021 the trial court issued a decision on the Nespoli Tier 6 case.

After four and half years the judge got it wrong and decidied in favor of NYCERS.

The five page decision was particularly flimsy considering that he took four and half years to write his decision. He basically said that NYCERS is the expert and he sees no reason to overturn the agency's decision.

He ignores the fact that the agency made one decision in 2012 and then changed its position in 2016. That does not sound like the agency is an expert.

He also ignores the NYS Constitution prohibiting the impairment of pension rights.

For argument's sake, let's assume that NYCERS got it wrong the first time. NYCERS should then have presented a well-reasoned explanation of why it changed its mind. The judge did not state any rationale presented by NYCERS supporting its change in position. He only quoted a definition from the Tier 6 law and said that the NYCERS interpretation of the definition was rational. He just deferred to NYCERS without any analysis.

Simple Analysis of the Tier 6 Law

I was the NYCERS expert for 14 years from 1990 to 2005.

Here is my analysis of the Tier 6 Sanitation/Correction/DA-Investigator Issue.

As background, the 2012 Tier 6 legislation was a 100 plus page law that tried to retrofit restrictions on many existing NYS pension laws instead of starting from scratch and creating a standalone tier with reduced benefits for new members. It would have been much easier to write the law and much easier to administer it.

Currently as part of the Tier 6 law,

Section 600 of the RSSL reads as follows:

§ 600. Application. a. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this article shall apply to all members who join or rejoin a public retirement system of the state on or after July first, nineteen hundred seventy-six and to all employees who would have been eligible to join or rejoin such a retirement system on or after such date but in lieu thereof elected an optional retirement program to which their employers are thereby required to contribute,

except the following:

1. Members of the New York state and local police and fire retirement system;

2. (a) Members in the uniformed personnel in institutions under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections and community supervision of New York state, other than certain persons as defined in this section or the New York city department of correction. ... 3. Members of the New York city police pension fund or the New York city fire department pension fund; 4. Members qualified for participation in the uniformed transit police force plan or housing police force plan in the New York city employees' retirement system;

5. Investigator members of the New York city employees' retirement system; and

6. Members of the uniformed force of the New York city department of sanitation who join or rejoin a public retirement system of the state on or after April first, two thousand twelve.

In the event that there is a conflict between the provisions of this article and the provisions of any other law or code, the provisions of this article shall govern.

Section 440.e of the RSSL reads as follows:

e. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the provisions and limitations of this article shall apply, as may be appropriate, to all investigator members of the New York city employees' retirement system

who last joined such retirement system on or after July first, nineteen hundred seventy-six, and

prior to the effective date of the chapter of the laws of two thousand twelve which amended this subdivision.

and Section 501a.6 reads as follows

25. "New York city uniformed correction/sanitation revised plan member" shall mean a member who becomes subject to the provisions of this article on or after April first, two thousand twelve, and who is a member of either the uniformed force of the New York city department of correction or the uniformed force of the New York city department of sanitation.

Quite simply Tier 6 clearly allows NYCERS members who join a pension plan prior to 4/1/2012 to stay in Tier 4 (or Tier 2) even if they become Sanitation workers (or DA-Investigators) after 4/1/2012.

Since 1983, the start of Tier 4, a NYC Correction Force worker have been exluded from Tier 4 and forced into Tier 3. So that a NYCERS member who joined a NY public pension plan before 4/1/2012 and then became a Correction Officer would have been forced into Tier 3 with his/her original membership date. This would mean that the member became subject to Article 14 before 4/1/2012 and therefore not fall under the definition of a revised plan member.

It is therefore clear that Tier 6 respected the NYS Constitution's pension protection. All the petitioners specifically joined a NY public pension plan before 4/1/2102. By the wording of the Tier 6 law, they are not included in the new Tier 6 pension benefit structure. There is no issue here. NYCERS needs a class in reading comprehension.

The Key Point

Of course, the key issue in this case is not the wording of the Tier 6 law but the protection of pension rights by the NYS Constitution. As of the date a person becomes a member of NYCERS, the NYS Constitution prevents all subsequent legislation from diminishing or impairng the member's pension benefits. That means that Tier 6 legislation can have no negative impact on pre-April 1, 2012 NYCERS members nor members of any of the other six NY public pension plans. This is black letter law in New York State. The judge never addresses the key issue in this dispute.

This decision must be appealed but time drags on for the members being pounded by NYCERS

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