WA Legal Roundup - Washington Supreme Court
In calculating excess payments payments under LEOFF, you have to first assess the benefits that the firefighters would have been due under their pre-LEOFF plan. The city accidentally calculated those payments as to what they would be due under LEOFF, rather than what would have been due under their old plan. The difference lies in the fact that contributions were capped under the old plan at Battalion Chief, whereas LEOFF has no such contribution cap. This resulted in retirees above Battalion Chief getting excess money. The city noticed and recalculated, not asking for return of overpayments. The appeal by McCallister argued that the city was doing it right all along. Unfortunately for McCallister, the city was right to modify the way it does things:
To ensure that LEOFF remained consistent with Bakenhus, the legislature enacted RCW 41.26.040(2), which guarantees that "a fire fighter who retires under LEOFF will not suffer any diminution in the benefits that would have been available if LEOFF had not been enacted." . . .
RCW 41.26.040(2) provides:
Any employee serving as a law enforcement officer or firefighter on March 1, 1970, who is then making retirement contributions under any prior act shall have his membership transferred to the system established by this chapter as of such date. Upon retirement for service or for disability, or death, of any such employee, his retirement benefits earned under this chapter shall be computed and paid. In addition, his benefits under the prior retirement act to which he was making contributions at the time of this transfer shall be computed as if he had not transferred.
(emphasis added). Under the plain language, this means computer under the old system, subtract LEOFF payments, and the city is responsible for the difference.