Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Harry Nespoli Fails to File a Final Appeal to Protect the Pension Rights of His Union Members

In January 2017, I wrote a post about how NYCERS was stripping pension rights from Tier 4 members who became sanitation workers after 4/1/2012 based falsely on the new Tier 6 law.

To make this issue simple, Tier 6 does not force Tier 4 members into Tier 6-3 just because the member becomes a sanitation worker and even if it did, it would be unconstitutional.

In November 2016, four and a half years after the passage of Tier 6 NYCERS changed its previous position on this issue and began sending notices to certain Tier 4 sanitation workers that their Tier 4 Sanitation benefits were being revoked and they were being forced into Tier 6-3 Sanitation benefits.

On 11/15/2016 Harry Nespoli filed a complaint in court against the NYCERS Board of Trustees attempting to reverse this blatant attack on his union members' pension rights.

NYCERS Board of Trustees

There are three votes out of seven on the NYCERS Board of Trustees controlled by the three largest city unions. Nespoli was and continues to be head of the MLC, the organization representing all city unions. It is not clear whether Nespoli spoke to the three union reps on the Board of Trustees about this issue. There should have been a full debate about this issue at a board meeting. This would have been the best way of handling this issue and preventing unnecessary litigation.

The Six Other NYS Pension Systems

In addition, there are implications of this issue for the other six NYS pension systems.

For instance, I have a strong suspicion that
a 2008 Tier 4 NYCERS member who joined NYPD in 2013 is covered by Tier 2 police pension benefits and
a 2011 Tier 4 NYCERS member who joined NYPD in 2013 is covered by Tier 3 pre-Tier 6 pension benefits.

This is counter to the NYCERS position.

Trial Court

Four and a half years later, on 6/10/2021, the trial court reached a court decision on this issue. The trail court incorrectly decided that NYCERS was an expert on pension law and confirmed its unfounded actions.

Nespoli appealed the trial decision.

First Department

On 5/5/2022 the First Department Appellate Court upheld (case # 02096-2021) the incorrect trial court decision. It discarded the constitutional pension protection clause with only the following statement which is, on its face, factually incorrect.

Petitioners’ reclassification did not violate the New York State Constitution (NY Const art V, § 7[a]), since “petitioners were never entitled to [SA]-20 benefits to begin with and, thus, did not have a contractual right to those benefits” (Matter of Ly, 189 AD3d at 1413).

In fact, on March 30, 2012, every Tier 4 NYCERS member was eligible to be covered by the SA-20 plan if he or she became part of the Uniform Sanitation Force. The court is saying they did not, in complete denial of reality. What we have here is a blind umpire.

On April 1, 2012, Tier 6 can not take away a pension right that existed on March 30, 2012, the day before. The scary thing about this decision is that there is no rational argument supporting it.

Court of Appeals

There is no record on the court website that Nespoli filed an appeal to the NY Court of Appeals. This is a constitutional issue and there are impacts for the other six NYS pension systems. It is clear that this issue should have been taken to the Court of Appeals.

Of course, this was the same time that the City and the MLC were busy trying to deprive city retirees of their Medicare supplemental health insurance benefits in order funnel the money saved into union welfare funds.

NYS Constitution

The following is the text from the N.Y. Constitution Article V, § 7:

"The rights of public employees are thus fixed as of the time the employee becomes a member of the system. We have consistently held that the constitutional prohibition against diminishing or impairing retirement benefits prohibits official action during a public employment membership in a retirement system which adversely affects the amount of the retirement benefits payable to the members on retirement under laws and conditions existing at the time of entrance into retirement system membership. "

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