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Midland Park Board of Education v. Board of Review

September 29, 2011

MIDLAND PARK BOARD OF EDUCATION, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WILLIAM G. SHLALA, RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 250,163.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 12, 2011

Before Judges Ashrafi and Fasciale.

In 2002, William Shlala retired from public school employment and began receiving a pension from the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund. In 2008, the Midland Park Board of Education (Midland Park) hired Shlala under a statute that permits temporary hiring of a school administrator without requiring the employee's re-enrollment in the pension fund. As a result, Shlala was permitted by law to receive both his pension from the teachers' pension fund and wages from Midland Park for his new, temporary employment.

After his temporary term of employment ended, Shlala applied for and received unemployment compensation benefits. Midland Park now appeals the ruling of the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, that confirmed Shlala's entitlement to the unemployment compensation benefits. Because the Board of Review did not err in its application of existing law to the undisputed facts in this matter, we affirm its decision.

I.

Shlala was a public school employee for more than twenty years. He worked for four different school districts other than Midland Park. He retired in 2002 and began receiving a pension of approximately $4,000 per month from the teachers' pension fund.

In August 2008, Shlala entered into a written one-year contract with Midland Park to work as Interim Director of Special Services. Retired members of the teachers' pension fund who return to employment in a public school in New Jersey must normally re-enroll in the pension fund and cannot collect a pension at the same time as their new employment. See N.J.S.A. 18A:66-53.2(a). In 2001, however, the Legislature amended the law to allow an exemption from these restrictions for a qualified administrator who is appointed to a temporary position in a school district for a maximum of two years.*fn1 According to the parties, the purpose of the amendment was to fulfill a critical need for qualified administrators in public school districts.

This provision of the law permitted Shlala to continue to receive his pension payments during the one-year period that he was employed by Midland Park as an interim administrator. At the same time, Midland Park paid Shlala wages of $575 per day, and a stipend of $4,200 upon completion of his contract term.

Immediately after his contract employment with Midland Park ended in July 2009, Shlala filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits. The Division of Unemployment Insurance determined that Shlala was eligible for benefits of $584 per week, up to a maximum of $15,184, based on his one year of employment with Midland Park. As the employer during the base year period for the claim, Midland Park's unemployment compensation account was charged with the benefits paid to Shlala. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-7(c); N.J.A.C. 12:16-19.1.

Midland Park appealed the determination of Shlala's eligibility for benefits to the Department's Appeal Tribunal and subsequently to the Board of Review, both of which upheld the determination in favor of Shlala. Consequently, Shlala could collect up to $15,184 in unemployment compensation in addition to the contractual compensation he received from Midland Park, and while also collecting his approximate $4,000 per month in pension benefits from the teachers' pension fund.

II.

In its appeal before this court, Midland Park makes two primary arguments. It asserts that the Board of Review's decision is contrary to the public interest and the spirit and purpose of New Jersey's unemployment compensation statutes and, therefore, must be reversed as a matter of public policy. Midland Park also contends that the Board of Review erroneously failed to offset Shlala's ...


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