COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

Suffolk, ss. Division of Administrative Law Appeals


Kenneth Sleightholm,

Petitioner

v. Docket No. CR-06-832

Plymouth County
Retirement Board,

Respondent


Appearance for Petitioner:

Thomas P. Crotty, Esq.

Perry Hicks Crotty & Deshaies
388 County Street
New Bedford, MA 02740

Appearance for Respondent:

Michael Sacco, Esq.

285 College Highway
PO Box 479
Southampton, MA 01073

Administrative Magistrate:

Maria A. Imparato, Esq.

DECISION

Kenneth Sleightholm filed a timely appeal under G. L. c. 32, s. 16 (4) of the October 19, 2006 decision of the Plymouth County Retirement Association ("Board") to retire him on August 16, 2006 from the Town of Wareham. (Exs. 1, 2)

I held a hearing on December 4, 2007 at the office of the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, 98 North Washington Street, Boston. I admitted documents into evidence. (Exs. 1 - 29) I marked the joint pre-hearing memorandum "A" for identification. The Petitioner testified. There is one tape cassette of the hearing. The record closed on January 5, 2008 with the filing of briefs with respect to the issue raised at hearing under G. L. c. 32B.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Kenneth Sleightholm, d.o.b. 8/2/1955, was retired for superannuation under G. L. c. 32, s. 10 on August 16, 2006 with 24 years of creditable service. He was officially retired by the Board from the Town of Wareham. (Ex. 1, "A")

2. Mr. Sleightholm worked for the Town of Wareham as a firefighter between 1971 and 1985, and for the Onset Fire District as a firefighter between 1974 and 1986. He became a member of the Plymouth County Retirement System on March 25, 1980 subsequent to his permanent appointment to the Wareham Fire Department. (Ex. 14, "A")

3. On June 27, 1985 Mr. Sleightholm took a refund of the retirement contributions he had paid since the start of his membership in 1980. (Ex. 14, "A")

4. On March 20, 1984 Mr. Sleightholm was elected as a Prudential Committee Member of the Onset Fire District. He completed a new entrant enrollment blank on which it was noted that his present membership in the Plymouth County Retirement Association began on June 3, 1986. (Ex. 15, "A")

5. On March 17, 1987 Mr. Sleightholm was elected as a Prudential Committee Member of the Wareham Fire District and completed another new entrant enrollment blank on which it was noted that his membership in the Plymouth County Retirement Association began on March 31, 1987. (Ex. 16, "A")

6. Mr. Sleightholm was not re-elected to the Prudential Committee of the Wareham Fire District in 1995. Between 1995 and 1998 Mr. Sleighthom purchased his past refunded service and other service rendered for which no deductions were withheld. (Exs. 18, 19, "A")

7. On April 4, 2001 Mr. Sleightholm was elected Tax Collector for the Town of Wareham. He held this position until his resignation in April 2003. He filed another new entrant enrollment blank indicating a date of membership in the Plymouth County Retirement Board of April 24, 2001. (Ex. 17)

8. As Tax Collector for the Town of Wareham, Mr. Sleighthom received compensation from the Town of Wareham and stipends from the Wareham Fire District and Onset Fire District for his service. In 2001 Mr. Sleightholm was paid $30,002.63 from the Town of Wareham; $1,589.38 from the Wareham Fire District; and $843.75 from the Onset Fire District.(Ex. 25, "A")

9. In 2002 Mr. Sleightholm was paid $40,557.38 from the Town of Wareham; $2,231.00 from the Wareham Fire District, and $1,687.50 from the Onset Fire District. (Ex. 25, "A")

10. In 2003 Mr. Sleightholm was paid $7,915.00 by the Town of Wareham; $365.63 from the Wareham Fire District, and $276.75 from the Onset Fire District. (Ex. 25, "A")

11. Onset is a village of the Town of Wareham. The Onset Fire District is a separate political subdivision of the commonwealth to provide water and fire protection to the occupants of Onset. The Onset Fire District has its own meetings, its own Prudential Committee and budget. (Testimony)

12. The Town of Wareham also has the Wareham Fire District, a political subdivision of the commonwealth with its own Prudential Committee, water commissioner, fire department and treasurer. (Testimony)

13. The Town of Wareham collects taxes for both of the Fire Districts. The Town collects an administrative amount from each Fire District to cover the Town's cost of tax collection. (Testimony)

14. As Tax Collector for the Town of Wareham, Mr. Sleightholm received the real estate tax bills and broke out what portion went to the Town of Wareham and what portion went to the Fire Districts. (Testimony)

15. Mr. Sleightholm received his insurance benefits through the Wareham Fire District until he resigned from the Town on March 1, 2003. He notified the Fire Districts of his resignation a few days later. (Testimony)

16. Mr. Sleightholm received his final pay check from the Wareham Fire District on April 30, 2003. (Testimony, Ex. 29)

17. In August 2006 Mr. Sleightholm filed an application for voluntary superannuation retirement benefits, indicating that he was "retiring from" the Onset Fire District, the Wareham Fire District and the Town of Wareham. (Ex. 4)

18. By letter of August 31, 2006 Mr. Sleightholm requested that his retirement request be put on hold until he contacted the Board again. (Ex. 7)

19. Mr. Sleighthom wanted to retire from the Wareham Fire District which would pay 99% of his post-retirement insurance benefits, while the Town of Wareham would pay only 75% of his post-retirement insurance benefits. A clerk at the Board indicated that Mr. Sleightholm was retiring from the Town of Wareham. Mr. Sleightholm said he wanted to retire from the Wareham Fire District where he received his insurance benefits from. The clerk advised Mr. Sleightholm to speak with the Board's executive director.(Testimony)

20. Mr. Selightholm spoke with the Board's executive director, William Farmer, on that day. He told Mr. Farmer that he wanted to retire from the Wareham Fire District. Mr. Farmer said he would take care of it. (Testimony)

21. A few days later Mr. Farmer called Mr. Sleightholm and told him that he would be retired from the last employer to issue him a paycheck. (Testimony)

22. Mr. Farmer called Mr. Sleightholm again and said that Mr. Sleightholm would have to get a letter from each employer attesting that it was all right to retire Mr. Sleightholm through the Wareham Fire District. (Testimony)

23. Both the Town of Wareham and the Onset Fire District provided Mr. Sleightholm with letters indicating no objection to Mr. Sleightholm's wish to retire from the Wareham Fire District. The Wareham Fire District declined to provide Mr. Sleightholm with such a letter. (Exs. 9, 10, Testimony)

24. By letter of November 13, 2006 the Town of Wareham Town Administrator, in a letter to Mr. Farmer opined, "As a result of conditions [Mr. Sleightholm] found upon the start of his tenure, an inordinate amount of his activity during his time in office was directed at resolving issues related specifically to the Wareham Fire District." (Ex. 13)

25. At its September 26, 2006 meeting the Board voted to retire Mr. Sleightholm from the Town of Wareham without stating a reason. Mr. Sleightholm appealed. (Exs. 1, 2)

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

The Contributory Retirement Appeal Board is without jurisdiction in this appeal, and the appeal must therefore be dismissed.

The Petitioner's appeal relates solely to the issue of from which member unit of the Plymouth County Retirement System he should be retired and receive health insurance benefits. This issue is not addressed in sections 1- 28 inclusive of G. L. c. 32. Chapter 32 considers the Petitioner to be a retiree of the Plymouth County Retirement System. The issue of retiree health insurance benefits is governed by G. L. c. 32B over which CRAB has no jurisdiction.

This appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

SO ORDERED.

DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW APPEALS

Maria A. Imparato
Administrative Magistrate

DATED: 3/12/08


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