STATE EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT COMMISSION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON PURCHASES
AND RELATED MATTERS

MINUTES

Thursday, April 30, 2009
Office of the State Comptroller
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106

TO: Connecticut State Employees Retirement Commission
FROM:
Subcommittee on Purchase of Service and Related Matters
(Present: P.Blum, C.Casella, L.Yelmin, Absent: R.McLellan)
DATE: April 30, 2009

The Subcommittee met on this date to consider the cases noted below. All recommendations were made by unanimous vote.

UNANIMOUS RECOMMENDATIONS
(1) Mary Ashton; The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Ms. Ashton's late request to purchase her period of prior service as an Intermittent Claims Interviewer (ICI) from January 12, 1976 to May 5, 1977.

Comment: Ms. Ashton claims that she received no notice of any opportunity to purchase her prior service. However the record reflects that she transitioned from her temporary ICI service into a permanent position within the Department of Labor (DOL) in 1977 wherein she remained with the DOL until 1982.The ability to purchase this type of service first became available to members of State Employees Retirement System (SERS) in December 1980. The DOL has maintained in the past that it has been diligent in its efforts to advise employees of any and all retirement changes and deadlines. As the presumption of notice has not been overcome, the Subcommittee finds no evidence of extenuating circumstances sufficient to justify a waiver of the deadline.

(2) Mittie Bailey. The Subcommittee unanimously recommends approval of Ms. Bailey's request to receive vesting and credited service in Tier II for her prior work pursuant to a personal service agreement from October 14, 1991 to April 2, 1992.

Comment: Ms. Bailey performed contractual service with the Department of Correction (DOC) from October 14, 1991 to April 2, 1992. She commenced state employment with DOC immediately thereafter. Section II of Part I in SEBAC V, a collective bargaining agreement between the State of Connecticut and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition prohibits granting retirement credit for contractual work if the pay received under contract reflects, in part, recognition of exclusion from the State's benefit plans. In administering this SEBAC V provision the Retirement Commission has determined that if an individual's rate of pay significantly diminishes in transition from the contractual arrangement to state employment, there is a rebuttable presumption that the difference represents additional compensation in recognition of exclusion from the state's benefit plans. The Trustees in applying this provision as a guideline find that Ms. Bailey's rate of pay did not significantly diminish
when she immediately transitioned from contractual work to state employment. Accordingly, her request for retirement credit should be granted.

(3) Lorna Champagne The Subcommittee unanimously recommends 1) approval of Ms. Champagne's request to receive retirement credit in Tier II for her prior state service rendered August 1, 1986 to March 7, 1991 and 2) adoption of a policy whereby an employee that has to transfer retirement plan membership from the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) to either the Alternate Retirement Plan (ARP) or Teachers Retirement System (TRS) due to a change in employment may have the ability to receive retirement credit for their prior period of service upon their resumption of SERS membership as long as the pertinent SERS plan provisions have been met.

Comment: In August 1986 Ms. Champagne commenced membership in SERS Tier II non-contributory plan. Following her transfer in 1991 to Uncas on Thames she became enrolled in the ARP. Her retirement plan membership remained in ARP until her transfer to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) in 1998. As she could no longer participate in ARP she resumed her Tier II plan membership which she remains in to the present. The Trustees felt that although her period of separation from membership within the SERS Tier II plan was greater than her length of participation, she never experienced a break in service and that any changes in retirement plan membership were not through choice. Accordingly, with no break in service during her state employment, Ms. Champagne was not subject to the statutory permanent break rule provisions.

Cognizant of the Division's treatment of members who were not vested and whose period of separation from the SERS plan was greater than their prior period of participation, the trustees adopted the following policy:

If the record reflects that an individual changed retirement plan membership from SERS to ARP or TRS due to a change in job status wherein membership within SERS is no longer viable and subsequently returns to a job classification which requires the resumption of membership within SERS, that individual may obtain retirement credit for the prior period of service within SERS as long as the pertinent SERS plan provisions have been met.

(4) Walter Cox: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Mr. Cox's late request to purchase retirement credit under Connecticut General Statutes, Section 5-180(b) for his prior military service.

Comment: Mr. Cox claims that he does not recollect ever seeing the notice(s) regarding the October 1, 1985 as his workload had increased due to the heavy demands that were being placed on him. As the presumption of notice is not overcome, the Subcommittee finds no evidence of extenuating circumstances sufficient to justify a waiver of the deadline.

(5) Mary Janicki: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Ms. Janicki's late request to rescind her membership in Tier II for the purpose of enrolling in Tier I and purchasing retirement credit for her prior state service.

Comment: Ms. Janicki commenced state employment in a permanent full -time position on October 13, 1982. Pursuant to the 1982 Pension Agreement she was appropriately placed in Tier II. Her assertion that she never advised of her Tier plan coverage nor did she ever receive any notice of the October 1, 1985 deadline is not sufficiently corroborated by her employing agency who while stating that they could not say for sure that Ms. Janicki ever received any of the notices did comment that each department within the agency would send a representative to pick up paychecks and handouts for each office. Accordingly, the Trustees find no evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption of notice and waive the deadline associated with this request.

(6) Nancy Konopacke: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends approval of Ms. Konopacke's request to purchase her period of prior state service as an Intermittent Claims Interviewer (ICI) from January 30, 1975 to May 6, 1976.

Comment: This matter was tabled at the November 20, 2008 Subcommittee meeting so that the Division could obtain additional information from Ms. Konopacke's employing agency; the Department of Social Services (DSS) regarding her claim of never receiving any notice that she could purchase this service for retirement credit. The agency statement provided clearly reflected that information pertaining to the opportunity to purchase this type of service in 1980 for additional retirement credit was not communicated to their employees. Accordingly, the Subcommittee finds extenuating circumstances sufficient to justify a waiver of the October 1, 1985 deadline.

(7) Daniel Micari: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Mr. Micari's request to receive retirement credit in Tier II for his prior service to the State of Massachusetts.

Comment: Connecticut General Statutes, Section 5-192i(h) sets forth the requirements for a Tier II member to obtain retirement credit for employment with another state. Among those requirements is that the state in which such service was rendered make similar provisions for former employees of Connecticut. The Trustees note that a former Connecticut state employee similarly situated to Mr. Micari would be denied retirement credit in Massachusetts. Therefore pursuant to the statutory provisions, Mr. Micari's request is denied. Associated with this recommendation, the Trustees directed the Division to review the case of a retired member that Mr. Micari had provided as evidentiary support for his claim.

(8) Stanley Peck: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Mr. Peck's request to purchase retirement credit for his prior state service from September 1, 1972 to June 15, 1973 under Connecticut General Statutes, Section 5-181(a).

Comment: Mr. Peck's uncorroborated assertion that he was unaware of the October 1, 1985 deadline associated with this type of purchase and his claim that he was erroneously advised in 1997 by the Retirement & Benefit Services Division following his late request, that his prior service was not eligible for retirement credit purposes are insufficient to justify warrant a waiver of the deadline.

(9) Honey Sammartano: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Ms. Sammartano's late request to purchase retirement credit for her prior state service from July 21, 1978 to July 26, 1979.

Comment: Ms. Sammartano initially made a timely application to purchase retirement credit for her prior state service in January 1983. However as she did not respond to the November 1983 invoice for this purchase she was sent a "last chance" letter dated August 20, 1985. Ms. Sammartano failed to sign the statement of her intention. As a consequence of her lack of action and in accordance with the advice given in the letter, she permanently forfeited her right to obtain retirement credit for this period of service. Accordingly, the Subcommittee finds no evidence of extenuating circumstances that warrant a waiver of the October 1, 1985 deadline.

(10) Robin Sutherland: The Subcommittee unanimously recommends approval of Mr. Sutherland's request that he be permitted to make a posthumous non-service connected disability retirement application for his late wife with a one hundred percent option.

Comment: Robin Sutherland was a forty-one year old Tier II hazardous duty member of SERS employed as a warden with the Department of Corrections (DOC) who passed away on November 29, 2008 after accruing approximately eighteen years and nine months of vesting and credited service. Mr. Sutherland claims that it was his wife's intention to retire considering her recent medical history. The Subcommittee notes that the record reflects evidence that the agency was attempting to help Ms. Sutherland to pursue the avenue as proposed by her husband. Accordingly, the Trustees find that there is justification to granting the relief the claimant was seeking.

(11) Gerald Witnik The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Mr. Witnik's late request to change his retirement payment election option from the fifty percent to spouse to the lifetime only.

Comment: Mr. Witnik retired as vested rights member of SERS effective September 1, 2007, the first of the month following his fifty-fifth birthday electing the 50% to spouse income payment option with his wife Nancy as the named annuitant. Mr. Witnik after first contacting the Division in February 2008 to inquire about his option election requested by letter in November 2008 to change his payment option election stating he was going through a divorce and had been advised to wait by his legal representative(s) before coming forward with his claim. The Subcommittee find that the clear SERS plan provisions prohibit them from granting Mr. Witnik the relief that he was seeking.

(12) Rebecca Wood The Subcommittee unanimously recommends denial of Ms. Wood's request to rescind her membership in Tier IIA of SERS for the purpose of enrolling in the Alternate Retirement Plan (ARP).

Comment: Ms. Wood commenced state employment in August 2003 as a State University Assistant Professor, a position which provided a six month window of opportunity from August 2003 to February 2004 for her to elect pursuant to SEBAC V participation in ARP, SERS Tier IIA or if eligible, Teachers Retirement System (TRS). Wood took no action, defaulting accordingly into the SERS Tier IIA plan. Wood claims she misunderstood the information provided by her employing agency with respect to the default provisions and that her personal circumstances that arose prevented her from investigating this further. The Subcommittee finds the extenuating circumstances do not warrant a waiver of the SERS plan provisions that prohibit granting her request.

Return to Meetings, Agendas and Minutes Home Page
Return to Comptroller's Home Page