As we end the summer, the board continues to move in full swing to address the many issues that revolve around our system. We covered a number of topics this month. These include the administration of the system as a whole. The board is putting together a set of bylaws for running the organization in a more efficient matter. These rules will continue to regulate the organization and establish a degree of control that will afford us the ability to run the system.
The organization is now firing on the three major divisions needed to be able to run the system smoothly: Investments, Benefit Administration and Legal/Compliance/Litigation. They are staffed with some of the most brilliant and energetic people in the profession. While each one is distinct, they work very closely with one another and provide oversight for effective management.
Regarding investments, the board noted that the investment team is developing policies and procedures to guide how the plan will manage its assets. The ultimate direction is achieving the best rate of return the plan can, given the level of risk and the volatility of the markets that we are investing in. This is why our asset allocation is so important, because it will allow the plan to continue to supply benefits to the membership in perpetuity. To explain this in clear text, I basically say, it’s not day trading; we’re in a long-term investment program. This concept is to provide for the retiree, the active member and the future member. The year 2022 was not a very favorable year thus far, but it’s only a small timeline in the overall plan. Policy review, comprehensive oversight and a sound, dedicated platform will allow this fund to continue to move in the right direction.
On the legal affairs side, Director Rob Garrison continues to act in the leadership role with protection of our system and organizational functions. Regarding the legal defense of the fund, the board had a 100 percent success rate in defending Office of Administrative Law matters. Two matters are currently pending in the New Jersey Supreme Court, Daniel Matthews v. Board and Jeremey Nirenberg v. Board. The Supreme Court decisions are vital because they present and provide clarification on the law as it applies to any benefit matters. Since the split has occurred for the PFRSNJ, we have had a 100 percent win rate in the New Jersey Supreme Court. The board is involved in one litigated matter in the United States District Court, where our counsel has projected there is a very high likelihood of success on the merits.
The board also assists in the receipt of contributions for members. Irvington was flagged as an issue because 20 members who were on payroll were not enrolled. The board’s administrative staff has helped to correct 16 of these 20 members and provide education and guidance to the townships to ensure timely enrollment of its members. The board is also aware of and actively working to correct crediting of salary for members in Atlantic City (i.e., detective pay issues) and the City of Orange (i.e., adjustments under a collective bargaining unit agreement).
Executive Director Greg Petzold and the director of legal affairs are working together to redefine and improve the manner in which pension fraud matters are investigated. The fraud unit currently is housed in the Treasury Department and works alongside the PFRSNJ. The plan is to have internal investigators on staff to assist the board in finding and eliminating fraud in the system. This is a key factor in ensuring a fair and independent process for investigations while ensuring compliance and accountability to those who try to defraud the system. This also fills part of our strategy to fill key positions to be certain of a smooth and efficient implementation with chapter 55.
The board heard 132 special retirements and 15 service retirements (10 being under chapter 52). We also reviewed 19 accidental disability applications and four ordinary disability submissions. I have heard from some members questioning why some of these applications take so long to process. While we are always trying to streamline the process, you must remember that there is a lot of data and evidence to review. As with any application, we look at it as if someone was reviewing ours. When you have someone’s financial future at stake, it is our sworn oath to ensure that we perform our due diligence. From the moment you hit the enter button on your application, our support staff takes the responsibility of following the process meticulously so that everything is done correctly.
Lastly, please be reminded that the election for the PFRS position for retiree is upon us. For our retiree brothers and sisters, I hope you can consider casting your vote for Bruce Polkowitz. Bruce has continued to be a wealth of knowledge and is a vital asset to the team. While it’s fairly easy to attend a meeting once a month, the rest of the time is spent networking, educating and researching better ways to serve our members. The dedication that Bruce gives to the board does
not go unnoticed by his fellow trustees. With crucial benchmarks being upon us, the need is to keep the team that has been building this board from the ground up intact.