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In re Washington Township

November 19, 2008

IN RE: WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP.


On appeal from the State Health Benefits Commission, Department of Treasury.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 29, 2008

Before Judges Rodríguez and Waugh.

Appellant Township of Washington (Township) appeals the decision of the State Health Benefits Commission (Commission), denying its application for an evidentiary hearing before the Office of Administrative Law (OAL), as well as the Commission's denial of its application to be relieved from the obligation to make payments to the Commission on behalf of a predecessor entity.*fn1 We affirm.

I.

This matter has its origins in the decision of the Township and the Washington Township Fire District No. 1 (District) to dissolve the District and transfer its functions, employees, assets, and obligations to the Township.*fn2 The process was initiated in or before June 2006, as the result of a petition from Township residents. On July 27, 2006, the Township Council adopted a resolution authorizing the dissolution of the District and the filing of an application for the necessary approval from the Local Finance Board in the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Approval was given by the Local Finance Board on November 9, 2006. On November 30, 2006, the Township Council set December 31, 2006, as the effective date of the dissolution and amended the municipal code to provide for firefighting services supplied by the Township.

Up to the time of its dissolution, the District was a "public employer" eligible to enroll its employees in the State Health Benefits Plan (Plan). N.J.S.A. 52:14-17.37. The District had participated in the Plan since at least 1989. Its employees received health benefits through the Plan, and the District was obligated to pay premiums to the Plan in return. Certain retirees and former employees of the District were also eligible for benefits from the Plan, although it is not clear from the record whether any were receiving such benefits at the time of the dissolution.

Public employers are permitted to withdraw from the Plan pursuant to N.J.A.C. 17:9-1.5, under the following conditions:

(a) A resolution furnished by the Division of Pensions and Benefits must be completed by employers who wish to voluntarily terminate their participation in the program.

(b) When a participating employer voluntarily terminates coverage, the coverage for the employer's active and retired employees and COBRA participants shall terminate as of the first of the month following a 60-day period beginning with the receipt of the resolution by the Health Benefits Commission.

(c) The employer shall notify all active employees of the date their coverage in the program has terminated.

(d) The Division of Pensions and Benefits shall act to notify all affected [COBRA] and retired members of the termination of coverage. Upon request from the employer, the Division shall forward a list of the names and addresses of terminating retirees and COBRA participants so that the employer may ...


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