West Virginia Pension Officials Delay Possible Merger Ruling Appeal

February 22, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The issue of whether West Virginia's two teacher retirement programs will merge apparently will stay unresolved at least until spring when pension officials decide whether to appeal a court order barring the combination.

The Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) has decided to refer the issue to its lawyers to study the merits of a legal challenge and then decide at its April 11 meeting how to proceed, according to an Associated Press news report. Board members also agreed to invite legislative leaders to take part in any appeal.

Board members also asked their staff to conduct an in-depth review of the potential effect of January’s ruling (See W. Va Teachers’ Retirement Plan Merger Unconstitutional ) and of any legislation prompted by it. State Judge Paul Zakaib ruled that the individual investment accounts are private property and that combining them with the defined benefit program would be an illegal “taking” under the state constitution.

According to the news report, West Virginia lawmakers may also study the issue as well. The legislature’s House Rules Committee has endorsed a resolution (HCR35) that would require a report to the interim Joint Committee on Government and Finance at its July meeting.

CPRB Executive Director Anne Werum Lambright said the staff analysis should also aid any legislative study, according to the news report. The study will look at how the estimated 19,602 teachers and other enrollees who were slated to join the long-standing Teachers Retirement System (TRS) under the nixed merger will be affected by the move.

These future retirees now rely on a 401(k)-style plan for their benefits. About 1,000 sued to block the merger, resulting in last month’s court order.