MINUTES OF MEETING
STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT COMMISSION
OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER
55 ELM STREET
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT 06106

May 20, 2010

TRUSTEES PRESENT
Peter R. Blum, Chair
Bob Baus
Charles Casella
Thomas Culley
Claude Poulin
Linda Yelmini
Sal Luciano
Steve Greatorex
Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton
James Dzurenda
Robert Coffey
Richard Cosgrove
Paul Fortier

OTHERS PRESENT
Mark Ojakian, Deputy Comptroller and Division Director
Craig Henrici, Counsel to the State Comptroller
Helen Kemp, Asst. Director and Division Attorney, Retirement Services
Jeanne Kopek, Asst. Director Retirement Services
Colin Newman, Asst. Director Retirement Services
Peggy Gray, Executive Assistant Retirement Services

GUESTS
George Spurlock, CEIU
Nancy Paretti, Court Reporter

CALL TO ORDER

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 9:12 AM

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT

Former Commission Trustee Dom Badolato will have a book signing in June. We will get the time and location out to you as it becomes available. The Chair would like the statute pertaining to the Municipal Slot on the Commission.

DIVISION DIRECTOR'S ADMINISTRATIVE AND SUBCOMMITTEE REPORTS

Following the close of the May 2010 Retirement payroll, the current backlog of unfinalized Retirement records is approximately 10,594. The Division processed 71 new retirees to payroll, 57 normal and 14 disabilities. Finalizations for the month were 82. As of April 30, 2010, 48 new applications for disability were received. 478 are waiting for documentation. 193 applications were denied and the total pending is 663.

For the month of April 22 applications were received, 22 were placed on the agenda and 14 applications were approved. October is the next available date for pending cases to be scheduled.

The Division is losing two people in audit and one in payroll as of June 1, 2010. We are still waiting to hear about refills on two out of the three positions.

The Division Director's search has a closing date of June 11, 2010. The committee will meet some time after that date to go over applications.

Mr. Casella asked about scheduling an Investment Subcommittee meeting. Mr. Ojakian will work with ING to set up a date and get back to the Commission Trustees.

In terms of the subcommittees, who will be chairing each subcommittee and will the Trustees remain the same on the same on the subcommittees?

Ms. Yelmini also informed the Trustees that she has been working with Helen Kemp on codification.

NEW MATTERS

1. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE APRIL 15, 2010 MINUTES.
On a motion from Mr. Luciano, seconded by Ms. Yelmini to approve the minutes of the April 15, 2010 minutes. Mr. Casella opposed. Mr. Baus, Ms. Fae Brown- Brewton, Mr. Caliendo, Mr. Coffey, Mr. cosgrove, Mr. Culley, Mr. Dzurenda, Mr. Fortier, Mr. Greatorex, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McLellan, Mr. Poulin and Ms. Yelmini voted to accept the minutes.

Majority Decision

2. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT COMMISSION CHAIRMAN'S PER DIEM EXPENSES REIMBURSEMENTS. Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Mr. Cullely to approve the Retirement Commission Chairman's Per Diem Expenses. All voted in favor.

Unanimous Decision

3. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM SERVICE RETIREMENTS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2010. Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Mr. Fortier to approve the The State Employees Retirement System Service Retirements for the month of April 2010. All voted in favor.

Unanimous Decision

4. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM VOLUNTARY PENDING DISABILITY RETIREMENTS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2010. On a motion from Mr. Luciano, seconded by Mr. Fortier to approve the State Employees Retirement System Voluntary Pend Disability Retirements for the month of April 2010. All voted in favor.

Unanimous Decision

5. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM DISABILITY RETIREMENTS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2010 AS APPROVED BY THE MEDICAL EXAMINING BOARD ON March 31, 2010. Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Mr. Fortier to approve the recommendations of the Medical Examining Board on March 31, 2010. All voted in favor.

Unanimous Decision

6. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM RETIREMENTS. Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Mr. Fortier to approve the Municipal Retirement System Retirements. All voted in favor.

Unanimous Decision

7. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE CONNECTICUT PROBATE JUDGES AND EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT FUND PERSONAL EXPENSES FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2010. Mr. Luciano move, seconded by Mr. Fortier to approve the Connecticut Probate Judges and Employees Retirement Fund Personal Expenses for the month of April 2010. All voted in favor.

Unanimous Decision

8. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT COMMISSION'S MANAGEMENT TRUSTEES PER DIEM AND TRAVEL EXPENSES REIMBURSEMENTS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2010. Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Mr. Greatorex to approve the Retirement Commission's Management Trustees Per Diem and Travel Expenses Reimbursements with the date modification. All voted in favor. Mr. Baus abstained

Majority Decision

9. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT COMMISSION'S UNION TRUSTEES PER DIEM AND TRAVEL EXPENSES REIMBURSEMENTS FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 2010. Mr. Lucian moved, seconded by Mr. Culley to approve the Retirement Commission's Union Trustees Per Diem and Travel Expenses for the month of April 2010. All voted in favor. Mr. Poulin abstained

Majority Decision

10. PROBATE JUDGES' AND EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT FUND STATEMENT OF OPERATIONS AND BALANCE SHEET FOR THE YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 31, 2009. No motion required, for informational purposes only

11. REQUEST COMMISSION CONSIDERATION OF THE APRIL 15, 2010 RECOMMENDATION RECEIVED FROM its SUBCOMMITTEE ON PURCHASE OF SERVICE AND RELATED MATTERS.

(1) Margaret Thomas

Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Ms. Yelmini to accept the recommendation of it's Subcommittee to approve Ms. Thomas' request to obtain additional retirement credit in Tier II for her prior contractual service rendered from March 18, 1984 to December 30, 1984 and January 15, 1985 to December 31, 1985.

Voting in favor of the motion: Baus, Brown -Brewton, Caliendo, Coffey, Cosgrove, Culley, Dzurenda, Fortier, Greatorex, Louciano, McLellan, Poulin, Yelmini
Voting in opposition to the motion: Casella

Majority decision

The above approval was adopted in accordance with the following findings of the Subcommittee.

The Subcommittee unanimously recommends approval of Ms. Thomas' request to obtain retirement credit in Tier II for her prior contractual service rendered from March 18, 1984 to December 1984 and January 15, 1985 to December 31, 1985.

This matter was tabled at the Subcommittee meeting on March 18, 2010 pending the Retirement Services Division's receipt of a job description for the position Ms. Thomas transitioned into upon her commencement of state employment. Following their review of the job description the Trustees found that this additional evidence allows Ms. Thomas' case to demonstrate that it exhibited the same features associated with the requests where the Commission has recognized contractual work as state service for retirement purposes.

12. REQUEST COMMISSION CONSIDERATION OF THE APRIL 19, 2010 RECOMMENDATIONS RECEIVED FROM ITS SUBCOMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND OVERPAYMENTS

A. Waivers of repayment of overpayment

Lawrence Palermo

Mr. Palermo experienced an overpayment of $14,360.81 which resulted primarily from his receipt of social security disability benefits, some [limited] earnings and the application of the 80% maximum benefit limit. Action: Mr. Luciano moved; seconded by Mr. Culley to accept and adopt the recommendations of the subcommittee to deny Mr. Palermo's request for waiver. In accepting the recommendation, the Commission found that Mr. Palermo was not at fault as fault is defined in the Waiver Regulations and that as Mr. Palermo was aware that social security disability payments were an offset to a SERS benefit he could have reasonably known of the requirement and the possibility of an overpayment. Because Mr. Palermo did not meet both of these prongs, he could not reach the prong of whether there was financial hardship. The Commission accepted the recommendations of the subcommittee to find that a repayment plan of $300.00 per month for 47 months and one month by $ 260.81 is appropriate in his case.

Mr. Baus, Ms Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton, Mr. Caliendo, Mr. Coffey, Mr. Cosgrove, Mr. Culley, Mr. Dzurenda, Mr. Fortier, Mr. Greatorex, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McLellan, Mr. Poulin and Ms. Yelmini approved the recommendations of the Subcommittee. Mr. Casella opposed.
Majority Decision

Ana Reyes

The MERS system has a built-in social security reduction. Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 7-437 requires the MERS retirement benefit be reduced when the retiree is eligible for social security (age 62) or earlier if the retiree receives a Social Security disability benefit. Ms. Reyes received a social security disability award retroactive to August 2002. She failed to notify MERS upon receipt of this award. Her MERS pension should have been reduced at that time. It was not. Because she failed to timely notify MERS of the Award and her monthly benefit was not reduced when it should have been, she has received an overpayment of $33,089.07 in her MERS benefit for the period from the effective date of the Award to the present.

Action: Mr. Luciano moved; seconded by Mr. Culley to accept and adopt the recommendations of the subcommittee to deny Ms. Reyes' request for waiver. In accepting the recommendations, the Commission found that Ms. Reyes was not at fault as fault is defined in the Waiver Regulations and that as she had been given a copy of the MERS letter advising her to notify MERS in the event of a social security award, Ms. Reyes could have reasonably known of the requirement and the possibility of an overpayment. Because Ms. Reyes did not meet both of these prongs, she could not reach the prong of whether there was financial hardship. The Commission accepted the recommendations of the subcommittee to find that as the financial information provided by Ms. Reyes is insufficient to grant a waiver or to establish a repayment plan: therefore Ms. Reyes is to be instructed to pay the amount in one lump sum and until/unless she makes this payment, her entire MERS benefit be taken until repayment is made.

Mr. Baus, Ms Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton, Mr. Caliendo, Mr. Coffey, Mr. Cosgrove, Mr. Culley, Mr. Dzurenda, Mr. Fortier, Mr. Greatorex, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McLellan, Mr. Poulin and Ms. Yelmini approved the recommendations of the Subcommittee. Mr. Casella opposed.
Majority Decision

Francisco Nieves

The MERS system has a built-in social security reduction. Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 7-437 requires the MERS retirement benefit be reduced when the retiree is eligible for social security (age 62) or earlier if the retiree receives a Social Security disability benefit. This is a well publicized MERS provision and Plan requirement. Mr. Nieves received a social security disability award retroactive to October 1, 2007. Because he failed to timely notify MERS of the Award and his monthly benefit was not reduced when it should have been, he received an overpayment of $1,951.50 in his MERS benefit from the effective date of the Award to the present.

Action: Mr. Luciano moved; seconded by Mr. Culley to accept and adopt the recommendations of the subcommittee to deny Mr. Nieves' request for waiver. In accepting the recommendations, the Commission found that Mr. Nieves was not at fault as fault is defined in the Waiver Regulations and that as he had been given a copy of the MERS letter advising him to notify MERS in the event of a social security award, Mr. Nieves could have reasonably known of the requirement and the possibility of an overpayment. Because Mr. Nieves did not meet both of these prongs, he could not reach the prong of whether there was financial hardship. The Commission also accepted the findings of the subcommittee to find that a repayment plan of $23.23 for 84 months and one month by $23.41 is appropriate in his case.

Mr. Baus, Ms Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton, Mr. Caliendo, Mr. Coffey, Mr. Cosgrove, Mr. Culley, Mr. Dzurenda, Mr. Fortier, Mr. Greatorex, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McLellan, Mr. Poulin and Ms. Yelmini approved the recommendations of the Subcommittee. Mr. Casella opposed.
Majority Decision

Ramon Alers

MERS is governed by C.G.S. 7-436 which holds that if a MERS retiree is receiving a MERS service-connected disability ("SCD") retirement then all workers compensation payments are taken as offsets except for specific indemnity payments. Specific indemnity payments are payments under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-308(b) and 31-308(c).

Mr. Alers retired from the City of Bridgeport effective April 8, 2003 with a service connected disability. MERS discovered that Mr. Alers received a workers' compensation temporary total payment s totaling $13,346.92 for the time period of April 8, 2003 through January 28, 2004 which was during the time Mr. Alers collected a service connected disability benefit. Mr. Alers' monthly benefit was not offset and thus because his monthly benefit was not reduced when it should have been, he received an overpayment of $9,514.06 in his MERS benefit for the period from April 8, 2003 through January 28, 2004.

Action: Mr. Luciano moved; seconded by Mr. Culley to accept and adopt the recommendations of the subcommittee to deny Mr. Alers' request for waiver. In accepting the recommendations, the Commission found that Mr. Alers was not at fault as fault is defined in the Waiver Regulations and that as a copy of the MERS letter advising Mr. Alers he had to report workers compensation earnings to MERs could not be found, that Mr. Alers could not have reasonably known of the requirement to report workers compensation payments to MERS. Because Mr. Alers could not have reasonably known of the workers compensation offset provision he did reach the prong of whether there was financial hardship. The Commission accepted the recommendation of the subcommittee which found that the financial information provided by Mr. Alers is insufficient to grant a waiver and that Mr. Alers be instructed to pay the amount in one lump sum and until/unless he makes this payment, his entire MERS benefit be taken until repayment is made.

Mr. Baus, Ms Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton, Mr. Caliendo, Mr. Coffey, Mr. Cosgrove, Mr. Culley, Mr. Dzurenda, Mr. Fortier, Mr. Greatorex, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McLellan, Mr. Poulin and Ms. Yelmini approved the recommendations of the Subcommittee. Mr. Casella opposed.
Majority Decision

B. Procedures with regard to the waiver process

1. Request for Waiver of Overpayment

Due in part to the increased number of waiver requests and the amount of financial information being requested and provided to the Overpayment Subcommittee cocnerning such waivers, the Commission discussed a change in the procedure with regard to retirees and annuitants who request a waiver of the repayment of the overpayment based upon the amount of the overpayment or the repayment plan determined by the Division.

After discussion, the Commission determined that following procedure would be enacted for individuals who request a waiver of the repayment of an overpayment. The individual formally requests a waiver and submits the required financial documentation to the Division. The Overpayment Subcommittee would review the material submitted and would make a recommendation to the Commission solely with regard to granting or denying the waiver. The Commission accepts or rejects the subcommittee's recommendation concerning the waiver request. If the Commission accepts the recommendation to deny the waiver, the matter is returned to the Division for recovery purposes. If the Commission denies the waiver request, the repayment of the overpayment will begin at the rate determined by the Division. The Division will apprise the individual of the decision and of the appeal process which gives the individual sixty days to request a hearing. The Division may negotiate the repayment rate with the individual during this sixty day period for full and final resolution of the matter. If resolution is not reached during negotiation, or if the individual does not wish to negotiate during this time period, the individual retains the right to appeal the original decision (denial) of the Commission during this sixty day period.

Action: Ms. Yelmini moved; second by Mr. Luciano to change the procedure so that the Overpayment Subcommittee makes a recommendation solely with regard to the acceptance or denial of the requested waiver for repayment; that if the Commission accepts the recommendation to deny the waiver then the matter returns to the Division for collection and negotiation. The Division may negotiate a different repayment with the individual during the sixty day period for appeal. The individual retains the right to appeal the original decision (denial) of the Commission during this sixty day period if the repayment issue is not otherwise resolved. Unanimous decision.

2. Commission Hearings - Attendance Exception

At its November 19, 2009 hearing, and in connection with waiver requests, the Commission directed the Division to notify attorneys and other legal representatives that in the future, the client (retiree or claimant) must accompany the attorney or representative to the hearing or the hearing will not go forward. Darryl Mickey has sought a request for reconsideration (hearing) on his underpayment situation. Mr. Mickey cannot attend. The Commission discussed Mr. Mickey's unique circumstances and determined solely for this case, in lieu of a personal appearance (attendance), the Commission would allow either a telephonic conference (if it can be arranged) or a properly notarized, witnessed and otherwise executed authorization from Mr. Mickey giving his attorney the absolute authority to negotiate on his behalf and to make binding and irrevocable commitments (even oral ones) for compromised claims. The Division will advise Mr. Mickey's attorney of the Commission's determination.

13. REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE COMMISSION'S DECISIONS FROM ITS FEBRUARY 2010 MEETING ON THE FOLLOWING REQUESTS FOR WAIVERS OF REPAYMENT OF OVERPAYMENTS:

James Mogob (MERS)

Mr. Mogob has requested reconsideration of the Commission's decision to deny him a waiver and to set an appropriate repayment plan at 24 months.

The Retirement Commission met on March 18, 2010 and heard Mr. Mogob's appeal. Based upon the information presented, it adopted the findings of the subcommittee and made the following determinations: that Mr. Mogob has been overpaid a MERS benefit in the amount of $13,375.57 since the date of Mr. Mogob's retirement to October 31, 2009 and the overpayment occurred due to incorrect calculations with regard to Mr. Mogob's final average earnings in 1999. This was a MERS calculation error. Although Mr. Mogob did not submit a written summary or explanation with his waiver request, telephone conversations Mr. Mogob had with MERS staff indicate that his argument was that because it was a MERS calculation error there was no way he could have known of the error, that the error was not of his doing or of his making, and that as the error happened long before being discovered, that he should not be responsible for repayment.

The Commission found that Mr. Mogob was not at fault as fault is defined in the regulations and that he could not have reasonably detected the error: because he satisfied both prongs of the criteria that he did reach the third prong as to whether repayment was a financial hardship. The Commission found that Mr. Mogob and his family income, expenses and assets were such that he did not show that repayment of the amount was a hardship and based upon this financial information, determined that the appropriate repayment rate was at a two (2) year recovery rate.

In his request for reconsideration, Mr. Mogob did not dispute the financial findings but rather asserted financial hardship because under a two year repayment plan over $500 per month was taken from his income and his retirement plans will be delayed because of the repayment plan. The Commission reviewed the material sent by Mr. Mogob who requested a record review and did not appear before the Commission.

Action: Ms. Yelmini moved; second by Ms. Brown-Brewton to deny the request for a waiver of repayment of overpayment finding there was no information in the documentation submitted to indicate that any of the Commission's findings were wrong or erroneous at the time they were made. Unanimous decision.

14. REQUEST COMMISSION APPROVAL OF THE PROPOSED DECLARATORY RULING IN THE MATTER OF PRISCILLA DICKMAN TO BE ISSUED PRIOR TO JUNE 8, 2010 IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 5-55-1(e)(1)(A) OF THE REGULATIONS OF CONNECTICUT STATE AGENCIES (attached).

Action: Ms. Yelmini moved; Mr. Luciano seconded to approve the Declaratory Ruling in the matter of Priscilla Dickman. All voted in favor. Mr. Casella abstained.

15. REQUEST COMMISSION APPOINTMENT OF A MUNICIPAL LIAISON FOR CMERS IN ACCORDANCE WITH CGS SECTION 5-155 (a)(4)(A) TO FILL THE VACANCY LEFT BY THE RETIREMENT OF JEFFREY SMITH

There is a vacancy on the Commission with regard to a "municipal liaison" representing the CMERS system. Two individuals have asked to be considered candidates for this position: Dominic M. Cutaia (Town of Manchester Fire Rescue) and Tom Landry (Town Administrator - Weston). Messrs. Cutaia and Landry have submitted letters of interest with regard to this appointment. The Commission asked that both candidates be invited to attend the June 2010 Commission meeting to speak to the Trustees about their interest and Commission responsibilities.
Action: Mr. Baus moved; Mr. Poulin second to table action on this item until the June meeting and to invite the two candidates to attend. All voted in favor.

16. REQUEST COMMISSION'S REVIEW AND RECONSIDERATION OF IT'S DECEMBER 17, 2009 DENIAL OF TIMOTHY WENTZELL'S REQUEST TO TRANSFER FROM TIER II TO TIER I IN SERS.

Background

Mr Wentzell was first employed with the State Technical Colleges on December 6, 1982 and enrolled in the SERS Tier II retirement plan.

In January 2009, Mr. Wentzell contacted the Retirement Services Division (Division) requesting to transfer his SERS membership from Tier II to Tier I. He contended that he should have been given a choice between Tier I and Tier II at the time of his employment and that such choice was not made available to him. Mr. Wentzell also contended that he spoke to someone in the Division who informed him that employees generally tended to be placed in Tier II unless the employee requested otherwise.

By letter dated May 6, 2009 the Division advised Mr. Wentzell that his placement in the SERS Tier II retirement plan was appropriate based on his employment history and SERS plan provisions and administratively denied his request. Plan provisions at the time of his employment in December 1982 mandated Tier II membership for all individuals employed in positions covered by a collective bargaining unit which had ratified the 1982-1988 Pension Agreement. As a technical college lecturer, Mr. Wentzell was in a covered collective bargaining unit position. In reference to the information Mr. Wentzell contended was provided to him by his agency business office as well as by the Division, he was informed that agencies had been provided with information as to the appropriate tier placement for new employees by written memoranda from the Office of the State Comptroller dated July 26, 1982, August 23, 1982 and September 20, 1982. Mr. Wentzell was further advised that Summary Plan Description booklets were made available and state agencies notified accordingly in the Fall of 1982 by written memorandum dated September 24, 1982.

Retirement records further indicate that Mr. Wentzell was employed through the window period in 1985 during which state employees hired from April 1, 1982 to July 1, 1984 were provided with a one-time, final opportunity to transfer between tiers and notices of this opportunity were distributed to employees; the Division has no record that Mr. Wentzell requested a tier transfer during this period. Retirement records also revealed that Mr. Wentzell wrote to the Division in 1989 requesting a Tier transfer. He was advised by letter dated February 13, 1990 that there had been improvements to the Tier II retirement plan as a result of the 1988 - 1994 Pension Arbitration Award and was encouraged to contact a Division retirement counselor before pursuing a Tier transfer request. Mr. Wentzell was further advised that his request would be considered withdrawn if he did not advise the Division in writing of his desire to pursue a transfer request. There is no record on file that Mr. Wentzell contacted the Division following his receipt of this correspondence until January 2009.

Mr. Wentzell applied for retirement under Tier II provisions effective June 1, 2009 at age 56 and elected a 50% spouse option; with inclusion of the three incentive years, Mr. Wentzell had twenty-nine years and one month of credited service in SERS and is receiving an estimated monthly benefit of $3,160.00.

By letters dated June 16, 2009 and July 29, 2009, Mr. Wentzell appealed the Division's administrative denial contending that he was not offered the appropriate information to make a clear decision regarding his retirement plan membership. He advised that payroll checks for his agency were not distributed in envelopes therefore he could not have received the notices provided in 1985. With his July 29, 2009 letter Mr. Wentzell provided emails from eleven co-workers in support of his contention that his agency did not provide appropriate information on retirement options at the time of employment. In his July 29, 2009 letter, Mr. Wentzell further contended that following his receipt of the Division's February 1990 letter, he spoke with a retirement counselor who advised him that the Tier II program had many advantages and that he should carefully consider a request for a transfer. Mr. Wentzell then contended that again no information was available to him at his agency so he took the retirement counselor's advice at face value and let the matter drop. There is no Division record of Mr. Wentzell's contact with a retirement counselor.

On November 4, 2009, the Commission's Subcommittee on Purchase of Service and Related Matters considered Mr. Wentzell's request to transfer from Tier II to Tier I. Based on the information provided, the Subcommittee found no evidence of extenuating circumstances sufficient to justify a waiver of the October 1, 1985 deadline associated with this type of request and recommended denial of his request.

At its December 17, 2009 meeting, the Commission unanimously adopted the recommendation of its subcommittee and denied Mr. Wentzell's request in accordance with the Subcommittee's findings.

By letter dated January 19, 2010, Mr. Wentzell requested that the Commission, pursuant to CGS, Section 5-155a(k), review and reconsider its December 17, 2009 decision to deny his request to transfer from Tier II to Tier I. In accordance with his request, the Division scheduled a hearing before the Commission on May 20, 2010.

Discussion

On May 20, 2010, Mr. Wentzell appeared before the Commission accompanied by his attorney, Eric W. Chester of Ferguson & Doyle, P.C. Attorneys At Law and Dennis Bogusky, a representative of the Connecticut American Federation of Teachers.

Attorney Chester began by thanking the Commission for the opportunity to appear before the Commission and advised that he was there to represent Mr. Wentzell. Attorney Chester stated that Mr. Wentzell began his state service in 1983 as a professor with the Thames Valley Technical College who was eligible to select either the Tier I or Tier II retirement benefit packages; however, he was not provided with that choice and was unilaterally placed into Tier II. Attorney Chester further stated that in 1983 the technical college was a very small campus with no formal personnel director or HR office and Mr. Wentzell received no information through the college. He indicated that Mr. Wentzell had provided a number of emails from employees hired at or around the same time as he were that corroborate this information. Attorney Chester referred to the Division's May 6, 2009 letter which referenced memoranda created in 1982 concerning retirement plan membership. He advised that those memoranda were not shared with Mr. Wentzell or anyone else at the technical college and that Mr. Bogusky was in attendance to confirm this. Attorney Chester went on to state that the situation was the same in 1985; information concerning the window period to transfer from Tier II to Tier I was not shared with Mr. Wentzell or anyone else at the technical college. Letters accompanying paychecks in 1985 never made their way to employees. Attorney Chester acknowledged that Mr. Wentzell sent a written inquiry to the Division in 1989 manifesting his intent to transfer from Tier II to Tier I but contended that his request was met with resistance. He stated that the February 1990 letter sent to Mr. Wentzell in response to his request discouraged a transfer and asked him to reconsider and contact a retirement counselor. Attorney Chester asserted that Mr. Wentzell did call a retirement counselor and was misinformed as to the differences between the two plans and what benefits he would inure as a result of a transfer. He contended that the 1990 letter was an attempt to steer Mr. Wentzell away from Tier I and keep him in Tier II. Attorney Chester reiterated that Mr. Wentzell was appearing before the Commission to ask that it reconsider the subcommittee's denial of his request to transfer from Tier II to Tier I and that he was willing, ready and able to pay what he would have to pay to buy into the Tier I plan. He stated that Mr. Wentzell was prepared to make a statement on his own behalf or answer questions.

In conclusion, Attorney Chester summarized that at the time Mr. Wentzell was hired there was no retirement plan information available to him. Mr. Wentzell was never given an opportunity to choose between the two plans but was put into Tier II. Mr. Wentzell was never made known of the window of opportunity to transfer between the plans in 1985 and when he did inquire as to his ability to transfer in 1989, he was misinformed as to the difference between the plans. Finally, based on the lack of information upon his hire and the misinformation presented in 1989, Mr. Wentzell made an ill-informed decision not to transfer.

Mr. Wentzell and Mr. Bogusky were then sworn in by the chairman to give testimony.

Mr. Wentzell provided a packet of information to Commission trustees and thanked them for the opportunity to appear. Mr. Wentzell stated that he began state employment part-time in December 1982 with the Hartford State Technical College. Mr. Wentzell further stated that he subsequently applied for and was hired in a full-time position at Thames Valley College in August of 1983. Mr. Wentzell indicated that he began teaching two weeks later and that his first day on the job was in front of a classroom. He left his interview with his teaching schedule, textbooks and a verbal offer and did not receive a formal notice of being hired until approximately four to six weeks after that. Mr. Wentzell advised that the information he was presenting would be in the order delineated to him in the Division's May 6, 2009 letter. Mr. Wentzell emphasized that he had initially made this transfer request in 1989 after being employed for approximately six years when he learned that there should have been other options available to him at that time. Mr. Wentzell confirmed that he received a letter back from the Division's director, Steven Weinberger, in February 1990. Mr. Wentzell contended that the letter explained how Tier II had been greatly improved and implied that a transfer would not be a good choice although Mr. Wentzell acknowledged that in the letter Mr. Weinberger did encourage him to follow-up with a retirement counselor. Mr. Wentzell stated that he did speak to a retirement counselor who he asserted told him about many improvements in Tier II and really discouraged him from continuing further. Mr. Wentzell admitted that in retrospect he erred in taking these options at face value but further asserted that he tried again to follow-up on his local campus by requesting information on Tier I and Tier II packages but was told that they were not available. Mr. Wentzell stated that as there was no information available on the internet at that time he was subject to the retirement counselor's advice and the advice offered in Mr. Weinberger's letter. Mr. Wentzell further stated that he believed that as an engineer he was capable of making the appropriate analysis at that time had he had the information to do so. Mr. Wentzell referred back to the Division's May 6, 2009 letter, specifically the request therein for a concise statement of the relief he was seeking and reiterated that he was seeking a transfer from Tier II to Tier I based on the fact that no information was provided to him during the time of his hire. Mr. Wentzell expanded on his experience on campus as to the lack of information available and the lack of orientation for new employees. He referred to the emails he had received from people who he asserted had started employment around the same time as him and had similar experiences on campus. He summarized several of the emails he provided. Mr. Wentzell referred to the request for evidence or documentation made in the Division's May 6, 2009 letter and asserted that he had addressed that request through the statements of other people hired during that period. Mr. Wentzell then addressed the presumption of notice in 1985 and reiterated Attorney Chester's earlier statement that information accompanying paychecks in 1985 never made its way to employees again referring to the emails he received from colleagues for corroboration. One of the trustees interrupted and advised Mr. Wentzell that the trustees had read the information he had provided and didn't doubt that he was given misinformation or no information. The trustee went on to say that the Commission had done this hundreds of times and that there were window periods where people could contest this. He added that Mr. Wentzell had actually done that in 1990 and asked why he had not checked with the Division one more time. Mr. Wentzell again indicated that he had spoken with a retirement counselor about the improvements to Tier II who he asserted simply stated that a transfer wasn't a good idea and discouraged him from pursuing it. In response to another trustee's question, Mr. Wentzell indicated that he did not have the name of the counselor with whom he had spoken. Mr. Wentzell again contended that he did try to follow up on campus and was told that no information was available. A trustee then asked Mr. Wentzell if after his conversation with the retirement counselor he was persuaded or satisfied that Tier II was the better option; Mr. Wentzell replied in the affirmative. Mr. Wentzell was then asked at what point he decided that was not accurate. Mr. Wentzell indicated that had occurred about a year and a half ago when there was a website that he could access for information. The chairman asked Mr. Wentzell what he were told about the improved Tier II benefits that put him at ease not to further pursue the matter. Mr. Wentzell advised that he didn't remember all of the 20 year old conversation, but did remember that it was stressed strongly that there weren't significant differences between the plans. He went on to say that he wasn't given the actual method of calculation or specific benefits but was told that that "These plans are pretty much equal. That's why employees don't care." The trustees discussed changes made to Tier II as a result of the arbitration award which in some respects made Tier II better than Tier I depending upon personal circumstances. Attorney Chester remarked that Mr. Wentzell were likely given vague statements and assurances that there were a lot of changes and significant improvements and were therefore misinformed. He asked Mr. Bogusky to corroborate that the mantra at that time was that Tier II was just as good as Tier I without giving specifics. One of the trustees advised Attorney Chester that was not accurate. In response to another question from a trustee, Attorney Chester again spoke of Mr. Wentzell's request to transfer in 1989 and the fact that he was discouraged from pursuing it further. A trustee referred again to the 1985 window period and Mr. Bogusky reiterated that the technical colleges were small units with no HR director and little information was made available to employees. HR matters were handled by the agency business manager who had a number of different responsibilities in addition to HR. The chairman advised Mr. Wentzell that the Commission would give consideration to his request and get back to him with an answer. In conclusion, Mr. Wentzell thanked the Commission for listening and reiterated that he was willing to reimburse the state for the expenses and was simply asking that the Commission correct what he believed to be an injustice that was done.

Mr. Luciano moved, seconded by Mr. McClellan to reaffirm the recommendation received from it's Subcommittee on Purchase of Service and Related Matters and deny Mr. Wentzell's late request to transfer from Tier II to Tier I within the State Employees Retirement System (SERS). Mr. Baus, Ms. Brown-Brewton, Mr. Caliendo, Mr. Coffey, Mr. Cosgrove, Mr. Dzurenda, Mr. Luciano, Mr. McLellan and Ms. Yelmini approved the motion; Mr. Culley, Mr. Fortier, Mr. Greatorex, , Mr. Poulin and Mr. Casella opposed.

Majority Decision

ADJOURNMENT

Having no further discussion Mr Culley moved, seconded by Mr. Cosgrove to adjourn the meeting at 11:07 AM

_____________________________
Peter R. Blum, Chairman

__________________________________
Mark E. Ojakian, Deputy Comptroller and Director ofRetirement Services

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