Challenge to Arundel's pensions is rejected

April 08, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a legal challenge by the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association to block lucrative pensions for dozens of county officials, ruling the group took too long to file suit.

The court said the 1993 suit by Robert C. Schaeffer, president of the 2,000-member group, was filed too late to block a July 1, 1989, county law increasing pension benefits for elected and appointed officials.

The court ruled that the three-year time limit for the filing of most civil suits, such as personal injury cases, also applies to challenges to municipal or county ordinances.

"We cannot allow plaintiffs to take a 'wait and see' approach to ordinances, challenging an ordinance many years after enactment on procedural grounds," Judge Robert L. Karwacki said in a 15-page ruling.

The court unanimously upheld a Feb. 7, 1994, decision by Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Eugene M. Lerner that essentially ,, prevented the suit from being considered.

"It's one of these 'death of common sense' kinds of things where PTC everybody knows what the county did was wrong, but nobody seems to be able to do anything legally to stop it," Mr. Schaeffer said yesterday.

He said he didn't file suit until Sept. 10, 1993, because it wasn't until then that he learned of the pension benefits established by the law.

The law, which lowered the retirement age and increased benefits for appointed officials by 20 percent, left the county's pension fund with $14 million less than it needed to remain solvent, according to county actuarial figures.

The county council scaled back the pension plan July 18, 1994.

David A. Plymyer, deputy Anne Arundel County attorney, said that dozens of county employees who had retired based on a promised set of benefits could have been stripped of those benefits if Mr. Schaeffer had won his suit.

When people base their retirement on an ordinance, they should be able to rely on that ordinance staying in effect, Mr. Plymyer said.

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