We started the February meeting by welcoming our newest member of the board, Retired Members Trustee Stephen Trowbridge. He has been onboarded with the required training and is ready to serve the members.
Our executive director discussed several key issues this month. First, the Division of Investment has signed off on the memorandum of understanding and it is now fully executed. This will now allow us independence of the fund in areas like fund transfer, investments, policy making and oversight.
As Chairman Ed Donnelly mentioned, the passing of Chapter 55 was a challenge, but the implementation of it was even more comprehensive. While the process seemed slow and daunting, it was done methodically and responsibly. In the coming months, we will be working hard on getting everything onboard and in line with the board’s model.
Another request was sent to the governor’s office to request the status of the open position on the board. Currently, the spot is held by a representative of the Association of Counties, with the consent of the governor’s office. It was mentioned that it’s imperative that all positions are filled in order to have a fully functional board. We anxiously await their response in this matter.
The cost of living working group continues to dive into the issue of COLA. One of the questions was the legality of the current state law regarding COLA and interplay with Chapter 55. It has been vetted, and it appears that the powers and functions that are enumerated to the board have little to no impact on the provisions of Chapter 78. When financially prudent and within established principles promulgated by Chapter 55, the board will have the authority to concentrate on this as it draws on the exempt status of the state government plan. We will have the flexibility to explore options on how to implement discovery to suit the needs of the fund and the members. Out consultant, Multistate, performed a comprehensive analysis on COLA trends, and the next step will be to follow up on how to operationalize potential mechanisms.
On the legal case management side, there are currently 181 cases
in the Office of Administrative Law, 33 in the Superior Court Appellate
Division, two in the New Jersey Supreme Court and one in the
U.S. District Court. Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests are
still an issue that requires some intensive labor hours to fulfill. As
we know, this law requires records to be provided to the requester
within a short, established time period.
On the legislative side, we are tracking 31 bills in the legislature.
One such bill (S-3559) will place restrictions on investment with
China and related third-party investments.
This month, we had 191 special retirements, 29 service retirements
and one deferred retirement. On the disability side, the
board heard three ordinary disability applications and 12 accidental
disability applications. Sadly, we heard three accidental line-ofduty
benefit requests. These are always a somber reminder to us
of the risks that law enforcement and firefighters take every day to
protect the communities they serve.
Overall, this has been a productive month for the board of PFRS.
With the MOU now in place, an independent fund is now a reality.
Moving forward, we will see the fruits of our labor. The hard-working
board and staff now have the tools in place to take this fund to
the next level.