On appeal from the Board of Trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System.
Ard, Morton I. Greenberg and Trautwein. The opinion of the court was delivered by Morton I. Greenberg, J.A.D.
[193 NJSuper Page 224] N.J.S.A. 43:15A-11 provides that an employee in permanent public employment enrolled within the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) may receive credit for prior temporary service by making contributions to PERS, provided that the temporary employment results without interruption in permanent
employment. The statute, however, requires the employee to agree within one year of becoming a member of PERS to make contributions covering the period of temporary service in order to receive credit for this temporary service. The question before this court is whether this time limitation may be extended.
In October 1976 petitioner was temporarily employed as an attendance clerk at the River Dell Regional School. On September 1, 1977 she was appointed to permanent employment and on December 1, 1977 she enrolled in PERS. From materials she received when applying for membership in PERS, petitioner learned of her entitlement to purchase back service credits and in October 1978 asked the school board's payroll clerk for an explanation of the procedure to do so. The clerk advised petitioner to contact the Division of Pensions.
On November 6, 1978 petitioner wrote a letter to the Division stating in pertinent part:
During the school year 1976 through 1977 I was employed as a temporary full time employee at the Riverdell Regional Schools.
Am I eligible to purchase one years service for that period? What will the cost of such purchase be to me?
Would you be kind enough to furnish the necessary papers that are required.
Approximately ten days later petitioner received a post card from the Division acknowledging receipt of her inquiry and advising her that specific information concerning her account would be sent to her as soon as the necessary processing had been completed. The Division asserts that on December 14, 1978 it sent petitioner the appropriate information and form to enable her to submit her application. Petitioner, however, denies receiving this material.
It is undisputed that in some manner the River Dell Regional Board of Education received the materials which PERS had intended petitioner to receive. The board completed the form, dating it January 22, 1980, and mailed it to the Division which received it on January 31, 1980. The form as completed then constituted petitioner's application. PERS rejected the application
as untimely. It advised petitioner that her privilege to purchase the credit had expired January 14, 1979. Petitioner then requested a hearing and thus the case was referred to the Office of Administrative Law. The Board of Education ...