On appeal from a final administrative determination of the Board of Trustees of the Public Employees' Retirement System, Department of Treasury, No. 818822.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. A. RODRÍGUEZ, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 29, 2009
Before Judges Rodríguez, Reisner and Chambers.
In this appeal we decide whether a member of the Prosecutor's Part of the Public Employee's Retirement System (PERS) is eligible to retire pursuant to the Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) Act, L. 2008, c. 21. We hold that such a member is not eligible to retire pursuant to ERI.
John Krayniak appeals from the final administrative determination by the Board of Trustees (Board) of the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS), denying his application for early retirement pursuant to the ERI Act. L. 2008, c. 21. We affirm.
The facts are not disputed. Krayniak began working as a Deputy Attorney General 2 in the Division of Criminal Justice in December 1988. Based on such employment, he was enrolled in PERS that same month. In 2002, the Legislature passed L. 2001, c. 366, which allowed all of Krayniak's service credits in PERS to be rolled into the Prosecutor's Part of PERS. That same year, Krayniak purchased fourteen months of service credit based on military service. The fourteen months were credited to his regular PERS account, not the Prosecutor's Part PERS account.
In June 2008, Governor Corzine signed into law the ERI. The ERI sought to encourage the early retirement of eligible employees to reduce the state workforce and provide fiscal savings. To do this, the ERI provided incentives in the form of additional years of service credit, increased temporarily monthly pension payments, or lifetime paid health benefits. However, in order to maximize savings and minimize liabilities resulting from the ERI Act, the program was limited "to only a designated subset of employees." L. 2008, c. 21 pmbl.
In July 2008, Krayniak filed a timely application for retirement, seeking to retire early pursuant to the ERI Act. At the time of his application, he had approximately nineteen years and seven months credited to the Prosecutor's Part and fourteen months credited to regular PERS. Krayniak chose an option to retire with a veteran's benefit pursuant to regular PERS, using the "right of election" to count his Prosecutor's Part service time as regular PERS service time.*fn1
The Division of Pension and Benefits (DPB) denied Krayniak's application for ERI retirement because he was a member of the Prosecutor's Part of PERS. Through a series of letters, Krayniak attempted to persuade the Division that he was eligible for early retirement under ERI. However, the DPB adhered to the denial.
Krayniak appealed to the Board. The Board issued its initial administrative determination, denying Krayniak's application. The Board found that Krayniak was not deemed an "eligible State employee" because he was a participant of the Prosecutor's Part of PERS.
Krayniak disagreed with this decision and appealed to the Board once again. In its final administrative decision, the Board denied Krayniak's appeal. The Board found that the issue before it was purely a legal one, concluding that Krayniak was not eligible for ERI because L. 2008, c. 21 specifically states that the term "eligible State employee" shall not include "a person participating in [PERS] under the [Prosecutor's Part]." The Board found that though Krayniak was "electing to retire and receive 'regular' PERS veteran ...