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Grabicki v. Department of Retirement Systems

filed: May 20, 1996.

PHILIP M. GRABICKI, RESPONDENT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF RETIREMENT SYSTEMS, APPELLANT. PAUL OLSON, APPELLANT, V. DEPARTMENT OF RETIREMENT SYSTEMS, RESPONDENT.



Superior Court County: King and Thurston. Superior Court Cause No: 93-2-05901-7 and 93-2-01499-3. Date filed in Superior Court: Grabicki: Oct. 31, 1994, Olson: May 3, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Paul D. Hansen and Christine A. Pomeroy.

Written by: Ellington, J., Concurred by: Grosse, J., Agid, J.

Author: Ellington

ELLINGTON, J. -- These cases raise the same issue on appeal: whether the Director of the Department of Retirement Systems correctly concluded that education premium pay or education achievement pay (hereinafier "education pay") is "special salary or wages" rather than "basic salary" for purposes of calculating retirement benefits under RCW 41.26.030(13)(a). We therefore consolidate these matters for purposes of this opinion. In the Olson case, Thurston County Superior Court affirmed the Director's decision. In the Grabicki case, Snohomish County Superior Court reversed the Director's decision. We conclude the Director was correct.

FACTS: GRABICKI *fn1

Philip Grabicki became employed as a police officer for the City of Mountlake Terrace in 1976, which entitled him to benefits under the Law Enforcement Officers' and Firefighters' Retirement System (LEOFF) Plan I. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the City and the Police Union, he was entitled to education pay in recognition of his bachelor's degree, and was thus classified for pay purposes as Police Officer, Step 5 (PO5E). Based upon the collective bargaining agreement, the City included education pay in the amounts reported to the Department as basic salary and withheld retirement contributions from those payments.

Grabicki was granted disability retirement in December, 1988. On December 14, 1988, the City sent to the Department a form indicating Grabicki's basic salary, from which the Department was to calculate his retirement benefits. The City did not include the amount he received as education pay. On January 6, 1989, the City submitted a second form which included education pay in basic salary.

Until it received the second form for Grabicki, the Department was unaware the City had been reporting education pay as basic salary. The Department advised Grabicki he was not entitled to benefits for the additional amount. On September 27, 1990, Grabicki filed a petition asking the Department to reconsider its determination. On April 3, 1991, the Assistant Director of the Department of Retirement Systems concluded that Grabicki's education pay was not attached to his position and, therefore, could not be included in the calculation of his final average salary. The Director of the Department affirmed the Assistant Director's decision.

Grabicki appealed the Director's decision to Snohomish County Superior Court, which reversed and ordered the Department to include education pay and recalculate Grabicki's benefits. This appeal followed.

FACTS: OLSON

Paul Olson became employed as a police officer for the City of Bellevue on January 16, 1967. He thus became a member of LEOFF I. Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between the City and the Bellevue Police Officer's Guild, officers were entitled to receive compensation, in addition to their base salaries, for post-high school education. As a major, Olson was not a member of the bargaining unit, but the City Compensation Plan follows the terms of the agreement regarding education pay. Olson therefore received additional compensation in recognition of his bachelor's degree.

On April 2, 1990, the Department informed the City of

Bellevue that it considered education pay to be "special salary," and that employee contributions attributable to education pay would have to be refunded. On October 21, 1991, Olson filed a petition for a declaratory ruling, requesting the Department to declare that education pay was included in "basic salary" pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement.

On May 26, 1993, the Director concluded that education pay was not "basic salary." Olson appealed the Director's decision to Thurston County Superior Court. On June 8, 1994, the court affirmed the ...


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