The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a Jan. 24 hearing in the battle over whether the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are required to comply with state law ordering local governments to subsidize their retirees who join the state benefits program.
Clark County District Judge Mark Denton granted Metro summary judgment Aug. 21, ruling the department doesn't have to pay the subsidy. They argued their benefits, including retiree benefits, are set in collective bargaining and are provided through a health trust that isn't under NRS288, which requires the subsidy, but instead under NRS287.
Denton agreed, saying employees who receive benefits through a bargained health trust are exempt from the subsidy requirement.
Public Employee Benefits Program Director Leslie Johnstone said state law says only public entities governed by NRS288 are allowed to send their employees to PEBP. She said that means not only the 100 or so Metro retirees in the program but all other local government and school retirees who received benefits through a health trust must leave the state plan.
She said as many as 3,500 retirees - 1,900 of them from the Clark County School District - will be booted out of the plan if the ruling stands. Based on that, the PEBP board voted to appeal.
The Clark County Education Association, Retired Public Employees of Nevada and the Nevada State Education Association have all joined the case on PEBP's side.
Johnstone said the full court will hear arguments in the case, which, she said, hopefully indicates their intent to resolve the issue as rapidly as possible. She said that's important because PEBP has open enrollment for retirees through March and those considering joining the plan need to know whether they can come to PEBP for benefits or not and what those benefits will cost.
She also advised her board in September there are a number of Clark County teachers considering retirement because the law allowing them to join PEBP on retirement will change Oct. 1, 2008. After that, PEBP will only accept retirees if their governmental entity also has its active members insured through PEBP. Until then, individual retirees can join PEBP.
Metro has refused to pay while the issue is in court and, according to Johnstone, now owes $940,000 if Denton is reversed. Clark County has joined the suit with Metro on behalf of its firefighters but has elected to pay while the issue is resolved.
Johnstone said the 2003 Legislature was clear in its intent that all local entities pay a subsidy at least equal to what the state pays its retirees.
Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, advised Metro during one hearing that, even if they fought the payment, it wasn't a question of whether they would pay but when.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.