Retirement Credits Denied For Teacher In Suspension for Sticky Fingers

In the case of Sekula v. State Teachers’ Retirement Board, a teacher appealed a decision by  the Teacher’s retirement board when it denied his request to purchase retirement credits while he was suspended from teaching. A court’s review of the board’s decision is limited, because the board is an administration. The court may only decide whether the board acted unreasonably, illegally or in abuse of its discretion. In light of these circumstances, the court must confirm the agency board’s decision.

What Happened?

The teacher had been accused of misappropriating some computer equipment belonging to the town. The superintendent of schools requested a municipality’s board of education to consider terminating the teacher’s contract of employment. The teacher and the board of education entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement provided that the teacher was not to receive any seniority or service credit for his employment for a specified school year due to a disciplinary suspension. The teacher attempted to make contributions to the Teachers’ Retirement System and claimed that he was on a “formal leave of absence” as provided by the agency’s rules. The administrator of the system refused to accept the contributions. The teacher claimed that he had wrongfully been deprived of retirement credits.

What did the court decide?

Based on the evidence in the record and the applicable law and regulations, the court could not conclude that the Board acted arbitrarily or abused its discretion in determining that the teacher’s disciplinary suspension did not constitute a “formal leave of absence” within the meaning of the Teachers’ Retirement Statutes. The teacher had been put on leave for misconduct. There was no other evidence to indicate that the board should have found this “leave” to not be formal. Rather, all events relating to his dismissal proved to the contrary.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.