NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 16, 2013.
On appeal from the Board of Trustees of the State Police Retirement System, Department of the Treasury.
Lauren Sandy argued the cause for appellants (Loccke, Correia, Limsky & Bukosky, attorneys; Ms. Sandy, of counsel and on the brief).
Eileen S. Den Bleyker, Senior Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent (John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney; Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Robert H. Stoloff, Assistant Attorney General, on the brief).
Before Judges Harris and Guadagno.
Appellants Michael LaRosa, Scott Newkirk, and Susan Kamish appeal from the September 25, 2012 decision of the Board of Trustees (Board) of the State Police Retirement System (SPRS), denying them full "creditable service" for time accumulated while members in the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) that was transferred to the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), and later transferred to the SPRS. We reverse.
The genesis of the present appeal is found in the 1997 merger of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Bureau, State Capitol Police Force, and the Bureau of Marine Enforcement into the Division of State Police in the Department of Law and Public Safety. See P.L. 1997, c. 15. At issue are the obscure workings of the State Police Retirement System Act (the SPRS Act), N.J.S.A. 53:5A-1 to -47, as interpreted by the Board.
Specifically, the parties' disagreement relates to the calculation of appellants' years of creditable service towards retirement. At stake is the nature of the retirement allowance awarded —— either a service retirement, N.J.S.A. 53:5A-8(b), or a special retirement, N.J.S.A. 53:5A-27(a) —— and when appellants qualify therefor. The long-term monetary difference between a service retirement and a special retirement is great.
A service retirement occurs when an SPRS member achieves "[twenty] years of creditable service as a State policeman." N.J.S.A. 53:5A-8(b). When achieved, a service retirement provides that the retiree is eligible to receive "a total retirement allowance of 50% of . . . final compensation." N.J.S.A. 53:5A-8(b)(2).
A special retirement is the grand prize of the SPRS. It occurs when "a full-time commissioned officer, noncommissioned officer or trooper of the Division of State Police" establishes "[twenty-five] years of creditable service" in such position. N.J.S.A. 53:5A-27(a). Upon such qualification, the retiree shall receive "a total retirement allowance of 65% of . . . final compensation, plus 1% of . . . compensation multiplied by the number of years of creditable service over [twenty-five], but not over [thirty]." N.J.S.A. 53:5A-27(a)(2). In other words, under optimal conditions, a retired state trooper may qualify for a total retirement allowance of up to seventy percent of his or her final compensation.
The facts that undergird our decision are undisputed. We derive them from the administrative record, and from the August 30, 2012 Initial Decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who was assigned to the consolidated ...