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Mathews v. Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 20, 2013

RICHARD MATHEWS, et al., Plaintiffs,


NORAH McCANN KING, Magistrate Judge.

This action arises out of the termination of the disability retirement benefits of plaintiff Richard Mathews. Specifically, plaintiffs Richard Mathews and his wife Sandra Mathews assert state law claims of breach of contract, promissory estoppel and negligence and federal constitutional claims of termination of benefits in violation of procedural due process and equal protection. Plaintiffs also challenge the constitutionality of O.R.C. §§ 145.20, 145.01, and 145.362 as unconstitutionally vague and violative of retirees' First Amendment rights to free speech, freedom of association, and freedom to participate in the political process.

This matter is now before the Court, with the consent of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for consideration of defendant Ohio Public Employees Retirement System's Motion to Dismiss (" Defendant's Motion to Dismiss "), Doc. No. 4, plaintiffs' response to that motion, Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Opposition, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (" Plaintiffs' Response "), Doc. No. 8, and defendant's reply, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System's Reply in Support of Its Motion to Dismiss (" Defendant's Reply "), Doc. No. 11. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Plaintiffs' Allegations

Plaintiffs' Complaint, Doc. No. 2, contains the following allegations:

Plaintiff Richard Mathews was an Ohio police office for more than twenty years until he suffered a debilitating medical condition in the spring of 1996. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. Defendant Ohio Public Employees Retirement System ("defendant" or "OPERS") is a statutory public employee retirement system that was created by and is subject to, inter alia, O.R.C. § 145, et seq. and O.A.C. § 145, et seq. Id. at ¶¶ 2-3. In April 1997, defendant awarded Richard Mathews disability retirement benefits. Id. at ¶ 14.

In November 2009, Richard Mathews "was elected to serve as a Council Person for the Village Council in the city of New Richmond (Cleremont [sic] County, Ohio []) for the term January 2010 to December 2013." Id. at ¶ 20. "Prior to accepting his appointment on Council, [] Richard Mathews conferred with the Village Administrator for the Village of New Richmond, Ohio and was assured that [he] could pay into Social Security, according to applicable R.C. § 144.05, as an elected official and would not be required to contribute to OPERS." Complaint, ¶ 21. In compliance with R.C. § 145.362, Richard Mathews filed an annual report of earnings with defendant in March 2011 and 2012, "showing his earned income as an elected official for the Village of New Richmond, Ohio." Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.

On March 26, 2012, Richard Mathews

received a letter from Defendant stating that, effective May 1, 2012, Plaintiff Richard Mathews would receive approximately... $1, 640.22[] per month under the OPERS Service Retirement Plan B[]. Plaintiff Richard Mathews was also informed by Defendant that Plaintiff Richard Mathews would receive... $3, 088.99[] per month if he was granted Unreported Service Credit from October 1, 2010 through April 30, 2012, (under the 2.25 years of OPERS Service Credit Plaintiff Richard Mathews earned when he served as a member of the New Richmond Village Council), which credit was to be added to his previous disability service credit[].

Id. at ¶ 25. In April 2012, Richard Mathews "received a telephone call from the OPERS Disability Office notifying him [that] his Disability Retirement would be terminated effective April 30, 2012, because of the income he had received while serving on Council for the Village of New Richmond." Id. at ¶ 26.

Richard Mathews applied for "Traditional Retirement benefits through OPERS" on April 3, 2012. Id. at ¶ 27.

On April 18, 2012, Richard Mathews "received a letter from Defendant indicating that Plaintiff Richard Mathews' Unreported Service Credit as an Elected Official on Council that takes place after June 30, 1991, was ineligible and would not be included as Additional Service Credit under OPERS." Id. at ¶ 28. Had Richard Mathews been given service credit for his service as an elected official, he would have received free health insurance and plaintiff Sandra Mathews would have received health insurance at a discounted rate. Id. at ¶ 25.

On May 1, 2012, Richard Mathews received "further correspondence" notifying him that he was no longer eligible for coverage through OPERS. Id. at ¶ 29. In response to his inquiry, Richard Mathews received more detailed explanations from OPERS on June 7, September 18, and October 2, 2012, regarding the termination of his disability benefits. See id. at ¶¶ 31-34. Specifically, Richard Mathews was advised that he was prohibited from purchasing prior noncontributing service under O.R.C. § 145.20 because he "elected not to have his elective service covered by OPERS, choosing instead to be covered by Social Security." Id. Further, because Richard Mathews was receiving a disability benefit from OPERS when he was elected to public office, his disability benefits were terminated pursuant to O.R.C. § 145.362. Id.

"[A]t no time did Defendant provide Plaintiff Richard Mathews with written notice of his right to file and prosecute a Disability Benefit Termination Appeal after the termination of his disability benefits...." Id. at ¶ 32.

II. Standard

Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiffs' Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When a motion to dismiss addresses a court's jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. See Mich. S. R.R. Co. v. Branch & St. Joseph Cntys. Rail Users Ass'n, Inc., 287 F.3d 568, 573 (6th Cir. 2002). "Specifically, the plaintiff must show that the complaint alleges a claim under federal law, and that the claim is substantial.'" Id . ( quoting Musson Theatrical, Inc. v. Fed. Express Corp., 89 F.3d 1244, 1248 (6th Cir. 1996)). Where, as here, the motion to dismiss amounts to a facial attack on subject-matter jurisdiction, a court must take the allegations in the complaint as true, just as it would with a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Gentek Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 491 F.3d 320, 330 (6th Cir. 2007).

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Roth Steel Prods. v. Sharon Steel Co., 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983). In determining whether dismissal on this basis is appropriate, a complaint must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true. See Bower v. Fed. Express Corp., 96 F.3d 200, 203 (6th Cir. 1996); Misch v. Cmty. Mut. Ins. Co., 896 F.Supp. 734, 738 (S.D. Ohio 1994). The United States Supreme Court has explained that "once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 546 (2007). However, a plaintiff's claim for relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Id. Accordingly, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

III. ...

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