On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Trustees of the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund, TPAF #1-10-86561.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sabatino, Ashrafi and Fasciale.
Marcia Bossart, a retired public school teacher and administrator, appeals from a September 3, 2010 final decision of the Board of Trustees of the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund ("the Fund" or "TPAF") that confirmed a seventeen-month disqualification of her creditable service time and prospectively reduced her pension benefits. We affirm.
Bossart enrolled in the Fund in 1966 as a public school teacher and subsequently held administrative positions. She retired from public school employment in 1999 and began collecting a pension from the Fund. The issues before us involve the effect on her pension rights of contract revisions that placed Bossart on leave from her last job as Superintendent of Schools for the Princeton Regional Board of Education ("the school board").
Bossart and the school board had entered into a contract for her to serve as superintendent from 1994 through June 30, 1999. By 1997, however, philosophical differences had eroded the school board's support of her continued employment. She was presented with unfavorable options of either resigning or facing termination procedures. Bossart did not intend to retire at that time but planned to seek another position as a superintendent. In addition, her husband was battling cancer, and so, her personal circumstances did not allow a protracted dispute with the school board.
Consequently, Bossart and the school board entered into a contract addendum on January 27, 1998, by which Bossart resigned and was placed on a leave of absence until the end of her contract term, a period of seventeen months. The addendum stated:
F. Resignation. Dr. Bossart will deliver her resignation (annexed hereto and made a part hereof) upon signing of this Addendum. Her resignation will be effective midnight on June 30, 1999. The last day that she will be reporting to work in the district shall be January 30, 1998. Dr. Bossart agrees that upon execution of this Addendum, the Board may hire an Acting Superintendent of Schools, and initiate a search for a Superintendent of Schools. . ..
G. Leave of Absence. Beginning February 1, 1998, and ending on June 30, 1999, Dr. Bossart shall be placed in the position of Superintendent on Leave.
The addendum also included compensation terms beyond continued payment of Bossart's salary while she was on leave:
H. Payment to Dr. Bossart. Within five (5) business days of the signing of this Agreement and in consideration for the promises hereinafter described herein, and for her resignation, the Board shall pay the sum of $25,000.00 to Dr. Bossart.
I. Payment for Vacation and Sick Days. Within five (5) business days of the signing of this Addendum, the Board agrees to pay Dr. Bossart for all accumulated, unused vacation and sick days. . . .
The addendum recognized that Bossart was free to take another position:
J. Subsequent Employment. In the event Dr. Bossart does secure other employment in a comparable central office administrative position which is TPAF eligible, and the effective date of employment is prior to October 30, 1998, then the Board shall pay her the sum of $52,000.00 in full satisfaction of the balance of the Board's contractual obligations.
Another provision of the addendum required an exchange of mutual releases between Bossart and the school board, thus severing the employment relationship without any outstanding claims, except that the addendum ...