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The Petitioner, a special education teacher in the Hudson Public School system has failed to meet her burden of proving that the MTRS applied the retirement law incorrectly in applying the actuarial interest rate to her purchase of prior service in the Maynard Public Schools from 1991-1997. Further, she has not supported her claim of negligence/non-feasance by the MTRS. Contra, Mildred Hembrow v. State Board of Retirement, CR-1229 (Division of Hearing Officers July 28, 1978). There is no evidence that the Petitioner mailed two separate service purchase applications in March 2013, as she claimed and that the MTRS lost or mishandled one of them. Rather, the evidence is that the MTRS received one service purchase application and informed the Petitioner that it received only that one application. Her “re-application” in 2015 is therefore subject to the actuarial interest rate.
The Petitioner, Lori Byrne, is appealing from the October 28, 2015 decision of the Respondent, Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) denying her request to apply the buyback interest rate to her purchase of prior service in the Maynard Public Schools. (Exhibits 7-8.) The Petitioner’s timely appeal was received on November 5, 2015.
I held a hearing on February 28, 2017 at the offices of the Worcester Registry of Deeds, 90 Front Street, Worcester, MA. I marked Exhibits 1-17. The Petitioner testified in her own behalf. The MTRS presented the testimony of Jonathan Osimo, the MTRS Assistant Director of Member Services and former Western Regional Director. Each party filed pre-hearing and post-hearing memoranda of law. (Petitioner-Attachments A and C; Respondent- Attachments B and D.) The last of the submissions was received at DALA on May 1, 2017, thereby closing the record. The hearing was digitally recorded.
FINDINGS OF FACT
The Petitioner is not entitled to prevail in this appeal. The Petitioner has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the MTRS has applied the law and or its regulations incorrectly or has been culpable in perpetrating a correctible administrative mistake. She has proven neither.
The Petitioner asks me to accept her narrative that she mailed both of her service purchase applications together in the same envelope and that the MTRS mishandled and lost her MPS application. There is no evidentiary support in the record for this notion. The Petitioner’s burden of proof cannot be made by my adopting one of many possible scenarios as the actual fact pattern; i.e. the application was miss-filed, the application was lost, the application was ignored and/or destroyed, or the mail carrier or another third party opened the envelope and removed the MPS application while it was in transit. There is no credible choice among these scenarios and I cannot base my interpretation on a key piece of evidence on mere speculation and conjecture. I must ultimately conclude that the application to purchase the MPS service did not arrive at the MTRS in March 2013 with the 4(1)(p) application for whatever reason. The MTRS did not receive the MPS service purchase application and was unable to process it prior to April 2, 2013.
The Petitioner must bear the consequences of the failure to procure a return receipt for the original mailing(s) and for failing to follow-up when she received the March 2013 acknowledgment letter that only acknowledged one application.
The MTRS duly notes that, while the Petitioner testified that she sent both applications in one envelope to the MTRS in Cambridge, her nonpublic application was received in the Western Regional Office in Springfield. This discrepancy creates some doubt as to the clarity of her memory surrounding events concerning the mailing of her application(s).
In conclusion, because the Petitioner missed the statutory deadline for submitting her application to purchase the MPS service and because the MTRS has no statutory authority to waive the statutorily impose actuarial interest charges, her MPS service must be calculated using the actuarial interest rate. The decision of the MTRS is affirmed.
Division of Administrative Law Appeals
DATED: January 26, 2018