Court remands disability retirement issue involving one-time Buena Vista mayor

TRENTON – The Superior Court has remanded back to the Public Employees Retirement System board a disability question involving the one-time Buena Vista mayor and his job at the South Jersey Transportation Authority.

The appeals court ruled on a question involving whether a retirement application should be governed by the law existing  at the time  the retirement application is submitted or at the time the application is ruled upon.

The court ruled against the PERS board’s determination that Francis Chiarello, a multiple member of the Public Employees’  Retirement System, was required to retire as mayor in order to obtain an ordinary disability retirement from the SJTA.

In February 2011, Chiarello applied for a disability retirement from SJTA with the intention of remaining mayor, according to the court.

The law that allowed a public worker to do this was repealed four months after Chiarello submitted his application, the court stated.

“We agree that Chiarello’s retirement application should  have been governed by the law existing at the time of its submission,” the court ruled.

“Simple fairness ,” the court stated in part, “requires that Chiarello’s ordinary disability retirement application be governed by the laws existing at the time he applied.”

The PERS board argued that the Legislature intended a broader reach in the statute.

But the court concluded, “we remand for consideration of the question the board posed but did not decide:  whether Chiarello could be totally and permanently disabled from his employment with SJTA while not at the same time be similarly disabled from his position as Buena Vista mayor.”  

Chiarello is no longer mayor following 16 years in the post. He was ousted by a committee vote, and remains a committee member, having won re-election in November.

Court remands disability retirement issue involving one-time Buena Vista mayor