523 A.2d 1376 (Me. 1987), Robinson v. Board of Trustees of Maine State Retirement System

Citation:523 A.2d 1376
Opinion Judge:ROBERTS,
Party Name:William F. ROBINSON v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF the MAINE STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM
Attorney:John W. Chapman (orally), Richardson, Tyler & Troubh, Portland, for plaintiff. James E. Tierney, Atty. Gen., Gregory W. Sample, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Augusta, for defendant., Robert E. Miller, City Sol., Bangor, James N. Katsiaficas, Maine Mun. Ass'n, Augusta, amicus curiae.
Judge Panel:Before McKUSICK, C.J., and NICHOLS, ROBERTS, WATHEN, GLASSMAN and CLIFFORD, JJ.
Case Date:April 07, 1987
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

Page 1376

523 A.2d 1376 (Me. 1987)

William F. ROBINSON

v.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF the MAINE STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

April 7, 1987

Argued Nov. 6, 1986.

John W. Chapman (orally), Richardson, Tyler & Troubh, Portland, for plaintiff.

James E. Tierney, Atty. Gen., Gregory W. Sample, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Augusta, for defendant.

Page 1377

Robert E. Miller, City Sol., Bangor, James N. Katsiaficas, Maine Mun. Ass'n, Augusta, amicus curiae.

Before McKUSICK, C.J., and NICHOLS, ROBERTS, WATHEN, GLASSMAN and CLIFFORD, JJ.

ROBERTS, Justice.

The Board of Trustees of the Maine State Retirement System appeal from a judgment entered by the Superior Court, Kennebec County, reversing an administrative decision rendered by the board concerning the level of retirement benefits William F. Robinson, a state police officer, is entitled to receive. The board contends that the Superior Court erred when it interpreted 5 M.R.S.A. § 1092(11) and 1121(1)(C) (1979 and Supp.1986) 1 as requiring the board to compute that portion of Robinson's benefits resulting from his service with the City of Bangor based on his "average final compensation" (AFC) as an employee of the state rather than his AFC with the city. We vacate the judgment of the Superior Court.

I.

Robinson is a state police officer who has served in that capacity for approximately twenty years. Immediately prior to his service with the state police, Robinson was employed from April 1962 to March 1966 as a police officer for the city. Robinson contributed to the retirement system while employed by both the city and the state. Robinson withdrew his retirement contributions paid through the city upon terminating his employment in 1966. In 1981, Robinson began an installment pay-back of these previously withdrawn funds pursuant to 5 M.R.S.A. § 1094(10) (Supp.1986).

State police officers may retire with full benefits upon completing 20 years of creditable service pursuant to 5 M.R.S.A. § 1121(1)(C). 2 Eligibility for retirement from the state police is based solely on employment with that entity. Under section 1121(1)(C), the retirement allowance is equal to one-half of the officer's AFC. AFC is defined in 5 M.R.S.A. § 1001(3) (1979) as:

the average annual rate of earnable compensation of a member during the 3 years of creditable service as an employee in Maine, not necessarily consecutive, in which such average annual rate of earnable compensation is highest, or during his entire period of creditable service if such period is less than 3 years.

Robinson's AFC upon retirement from the state police is or will be approximately $32,000. His final AFC with the city after almost four years of service is approximately $4700. In addition to the one-half AFC allowance, section 1121(1)(C) provides that a retiring officer will receive "an additional 2% of his average final compensation for each year of membership service not included in determining eligibility for retirement under this paragraph." "Membership service" is defined as "service rendered while a member of the retirement system for which credit is allowable under

Page 1378

section 1094." 5 M.R.S.A. § 1001(13) (1979). 3

The parties agreed that upon retirement Robinson will be entitled to one-half of his AFC with the state police as his annual retirement allowance. The parties disagreed as to the nature and amount of the AFC upon which the additional 2% per year of Robinson's service will be computed. Robinson contended that "membership service" as set forth in section 1121(1)(C) includes service performed with any other entity at any other time if that entity contributed to the retirement system. As a corollary, Robinson argued that section 1121(1)(C) requires the board to calculate all of his 2% additional benefit with reference to his final state police AFC without regard to his final city AFC. 4 Thus, to calculate his repurchased benefit, Robinson would have the board multiply his final state police AFC by 2% times approximately 4--the number of years Robinson worked for the city. The board decided that the additional benefit provided for in section 1121(1)(C) pertains only to membership service with the state police beyond the 20 years necessary to establish eligibility for retirement. The board maintained that the retirement benefit to which Robinson is entitled as a result of his city employment must be measured and calculated with reference to the city retirement plan in effect in 1966. 5

The board held a hearing at which it declined to adopt Robinson's interpretation of the statute. Instead, relying largely on informal opinions from the Attorney General's office, the...

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