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East Windsor Regional School v. Board of Trustees

August 8, 2011

EAST WINDSOR REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, ACTIVE MEMBERS AND EAST WINDSOR EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES, TEACHERS' PENSION AND ANNUITY FUND, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund, Docket No. LOC#1-00121.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 8, 2011

Before Judges Carchman and Waugh.

Petitioners East Windsor Education Association (Association) and members of the Association who were actively employed as "content specialists and program coordinators" in 2006 (Members) appeal the final administrative decision of the Board of Trustees of the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund (Board) determining that the Members were not entitled to pension credit for compensation they received for serving as content specialists and program coordinators. We reverse.

I.

This matter had its origin in a dispute between Nick Chomicki, a teacher of industrial arts and technology, and the East Windsor School District (District) concerning Chomicki's right to receive pension credit for compensation he received for acting as "computer coordinator" for the District's high school. During the course of that dispute, Chomicki argued that his coordinator position was similar to the content specialist and program coordinator positions held by the Members, who were receiving pension credit for those services. As a result, the Attorney General requested the Division of Pensions and Benefits (Division) to consider whether individuals in those positions were entitled to pension credit.

In July 2006, the Division issued an administrative decision determining that teachers performing specialist and coordinator duties were not entitled to pension credit for that portion of their compensation. The Association and the Members appealed that decision to the Board. In July 2007, the Board upheld the Division's determination. The Association and the Members then requested that the matter be referred to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) as a contested case, N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 to -15 and N.J.S.A. 52:14F-1 to -13. The Board made the requested referral.

Both sides moved for summary disposition on stipulated facts. However, the administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that a hearing was required to determine more specifically the job duties of the content specialists and program coordinators. The hearing was held on May 12, 2009.

The ALJ issued her initial decision on December 22, 2009. After stating her factual findings and discussing the law, the ALJ recommended that the Members receive pension credit for acting as content specialists and program coordinators. The Board filed exceptions to the initial decision, and petitioners filed responses to them.

On March 5, 2010, the Board adopted the ALJ's findings of fact, but rejected her conclusions of law. The Board determined that the Members were not entitled to pension credit. This appeal followed.

Because the Board adopted the ALJ's findings of fact, which are not challenged by petitioners, we set forth portions of those findings to provide a factual background for the legal issues presented on appeal.

The parties have stipulated to the following facts and evidence:

9. There is no dispute that the duties of Program Coordinators and Content Specialists are integral to the effective functioning of the school curriculum.

10. Program Coordinators and Content Specialists are required to have an instructional certificate, as are all teachers.

11. Program Coordinators and Content Specialists completed the duties of these positions both during the ...


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