STATE GOV’T RETIREMENT BENEFITS ELECTION: LAWSON V. KENTUCKY RETIREMENT SYSTEMS, INC (COA 7/6/2007)

LAWSON V. KENTUCKY RETIREMENT SYSTEMS, INC.
EMPLOYMENT LAW:  STATE GOV’T RETIREMENT BENEFITS ELECTION
2006-CA-001389
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING
PANEL: DIXON, PRESIDING; ABRAMSON AND ROSENBLUM CONCUR.
COUNTY:  FRANKLING
DATE RENDERED: 7/6/2007

The retiree/appellant appealed a circuit court order denying him declaratory relief and affirming the decision of the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Retirement Systems.  Affirmed.

During counseling, Lawson executed Form 6010, and selected “life with 15 years certain” as the benefit payment option for his retirement benefits.  Although he realized his error shortly after the August 2, 2004 meeting where he had made the election, Lawson did not contact Retirement Systems to change the payment option until September 16, 2004. At that time, a Retirement Systems employee explained that the payment option could not be changed because Lawson’s first retirement check had been issued by the state treasurer. Lawson opined he had not yet received his first retirement check and sought a hearing to appeal Retirement Systems’ decision.

COA rejected Lawson’s assertion that he was misled to believe he had until September 27, 2004, to change his payment option.

Despite Lawson’s protestations, KRS 61.590(3) is not vague or ambiguous, and provides (emphasis added):

The member or beneficiary shall file at the retirement office the form entitled "Estimated Retirement Allowance" after he has checked the plan of his choice, signed the document and had his signature witnessed. A member or beneficiary may not select a different plan after the first retirement allowance payment has been issued by the State Treasurer.

“As long as an ordinance or statute can be reasonably understood by those affected by the ordinance and they can reasonably understand what the statute requires of them, it is not unconstitutionally vague.” Lexington Fayette County Food and Beverage Ass’n v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Govt., 131 S.W.3d 745, 753 (Ky. 2004).  KRS 61.590(3) is plainly written, an explanatory administrative regulation would be unnecessary.

By Michael Stevens

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