As stated in, in December of 2012, a former Jersey City municipal inspector, Bennie Anderson, took a $300 payoff to change the tax description on a building zoned for two units to one zoned for three units. Anderson pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court to two years of probation, five months of home confinement, and a $3,000 fine. Most recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided it was proper that Anderson forfeit his entire pension. In a 5-1 decision, with Chief Justice Stuart Rabner not participating, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote that the Legislature had established a public pension based on the pre-condition of honorable service and rejected Anderson’s contention that forfeiting the benefit in its entirety represented an excessive fine.

Bennie Anderson was a city employee for almost forty years and his pension entitled him to $67,173 annually. Those that advocated for a total forfeiture argued that the receipt of pension benefits is always conditioned on honorable service and thus, Anderson did not earn the right to receive such a benefit by virtue of his criminal conviction. Counsel for the Pension Board stated, “It is neither unconscionable nor unreasonable to require honesty and integrity during an employee’s tenure in public service”.

However, not everyone considered the Court’s ultimate decision to forfeit Anderson’s entire pension a fair and equitable outcome. Anderson’s attorney stated, referring to the value of Anderson’s pension, that a total forfeiture was akin to a “million-dollar fine.” He went on to state, “For $300, it’s very sad. To me, that’s where it starts and ends. How is that not a punitive fine?” Anderson’s attorney said the pension would have paid out more than $1 million in benefits over Anderson’s expected lifespan.

The seminal case in pension forfeiture matters is Uricoli v. Board of Trustees, PFRS, 91 N.J. 62 (1982). In Uricoli, former police chief Uricoli petitioned for certification after the appellate court affirmed the Pension Board’s final administrative determination to forfeit his pension in totality after Uricoli was found to have committed the crime of “ticket fixing.” The Court granted certification and ultimately reversed and remanded the appellate court’s decision. The Court determined that a total forfeiture of Uricoli’s pension was not warranted based upon the facts presented, and alternatively recommended a partial forfeiture of Uricoli’s pension.

In making its recommendation for a partial forfeiture, the Uricoli Court developed a test for determining the extent to which a public employee who engaged in dishonorable service should forfeit his or her pension benefits. The Court set forth an eleven-point balancing test, which was later codified by the Legislature in N.J.S.A. 43:1-3. The factors that must be assessed, per Uricoli, are as follows:

  1. The member’s length in service;
  2. The basis for retirement;
  3. The extent to which the employee’s pension has vested;
  4. The duties of the particular employment;
  5. The employee’s public employment history and record;
  6. The employee’s other public employment and service;
  7. The nature of the misconduct or crime, including the gravity or substantiality of the offense, whether it was a single or multiple offense and whether it was continuing or isolated;
  8. The relationship between the misconduct and the employee’s public duties;
  9. The quality of moral turpitude or the degree of guilt and culpability, including the employee’s motives and reasons, personal gain and the like;
  10. The availability and adequacy of other penal sanctions; and
  11. Other personal circumstances relating to the employee bearing upon the justness of forfeiture.

Despite the prima facie similarities between his case and Uricoli, the Supreme Court evidentially determined that the eleven Uricoli factors weighed in favor of a total forfeiture with respect to Anderson’s appeal. It should also be noted that the Court is generally compelled to afford a certain amount of deference to agency decisions, which includes those made by the Division of Pensions and Benefits.

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Photo of Michael DeRose Michael DeRose

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey…

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey, the Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of various labor unions and their members. Michael has extensive experience defending and fighting for members of law enforcement and other public employees facing adverse disciplinary action, such as termination or suspension from employment. He also frequently argues before New Jersey’s Appellate Division on behalf of his clients.

A large portion of his practice is also devoted to contract negotiations on behalf of union clients, representing such clients in grievance arbitration/ contract disputes, and otherwise advising union leaders on labor and employment matters.  Michael also has significant experience in the realm of interest arbitration on behalf of the firm’s law enforcement and firefighter unions. As a result of the firm’s robust labor and employment practice, Michael regularly appears before various state agencies, such as the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, the State Health Benefits Commission, and NJ PERC. In addition to representing labor unions and active employees, Michael also represents retirees before the Division of Pensions in disability retirement applications, both ordinary and accidental disability retirement, in pension forfeiture actions, and in other miscellaneous pension disputes. He also counsels private business and their principals in contract and employment law, in addition to representing their interests in civil litigation. Michael has a track record of obtaining favorable outcomes for his clients and treats each everyone of them on an individual and particularized basis in accordance with their needs.

Before joining the firm in August of 2015, Michael was an associate counsel at a civil litigation firm out in Trenton, New Jersey, where he principally focused his practice around employment law and tort claims litigation. Prior to that, he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Honorable F. Patrick McManimon, Mercer County Vicinage, from September of 2012 to August of 2013, where he attained significant experience in the realm of alternative dispute resolution having mediated well-over one-hundred cases, primarily related to commercial and residential landlord/ tenant disputes and contract/ business litigation. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2012 after graduating from the Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. In 2007, he earned his Bachelor of the Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Kean University where he was a member of the Kean University baseball team and vice president of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Michael is admitted to the New Jersey State Bar, the United States Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, and is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.