Memorandum Number 669
Petition from the Maine Annual Conference for a Determination as to the Validity of Actions by the General Board of Pensions.
Statement of Facts
The General Board of Pensions gave the Maine Annual Conference what it concedes was inaccurate information. As a result of this mistake the Maine Annual Conference found itself confronted with a bill from the General Board of Pensions more than twice what it expected and had been assured was the total it would have to pay. The Maine Annual Conference appeals to the Judicial Council "to determine the validity of actions taken by the General Board of Pensions, under the provisions of paragraph 2610 of the 1988 Book of Discipline." The General Board of Pensions asserts "the Judicial Council has no jurisdiction over the subject matter which would permit the Judicial Council to direct any form of relief which the Maine Annual Conference might seek or desire."
Appearing for oral argument were James Walton-Myers for the General Board of Pensions and Alan Leathers and James M. Young for the Maine Annual Conference.
We accept jurisdiction. From the record before us it is plain the General Board of Pensions refuses to perform its legal contractual agreement with the Maine Annual Conference. Neither in its brief nor at oral argument was any credible reason given by the General Board of Pensions as to why it should not honor its agreement with the Maine Conference. It is also plain from the record that the sole error involved is that of the General Board of Pensions. Further the Board has informed the conference that the recourse of the conference is not through the Judicial Council but only through the secular courts. The Board is in error again.
Disputes between agencies should be settled by the parties, not by the secular courts. We expect this to be done here. Thus, we retain jurisdiction in this case but remand it back to the parties to reach a settlement. The parties are directed to settle this matter by January 1, 1992 and to inform the President of the Judicial Council in writing of the agreement reached.
I must respectfully disagree with the opinion of my colleagues that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this case under 2610.
There is no question that there is a dispute between the General Board of Pensions and the Maine Annual Conference regarding the fiduciary responsibility of the General Board to the Maine Conference. It is undisputed that a staff member of the General Board of Pensions gave inaccurate information to the Maine Conference Board of Pensions concerning the cost of changing from a Non-Service Annuity Conference to a Service Annuity Conference, and from seventy percent (70%) for surviving spouses to seventy-five percent (75%) for surviving spouses. It is evident that the Maine Conference relied upon the information given by the staff member of the General Board of Pensions in changing its pension program. This reliance was to the detriment of the Maine Conference. This would indicate that a contractual agreement was formed between the two parties.
Paragraph 2610 states:
The Judicial Council shall hear and determine the legality of any action (emphasis added) taken by a General Conference board or body ... on a matter affecting an Annual or a Provisional Annual Conference ...
It is my contention that advice or information given by a staff member of a General Conference board does not constitute action taken by that board.
This Council, in Decision No. 59, has stated that its jurisdiction is confined to interpretation of law from a strictly legal standpoint. I submit that there is no legal interpretation to be made in this case. It is my opinion that to accept jurisdiction in this case would be inconsistent with the rulings of this Council in Decision No. 59.
For the reasons stated above I dissent from the conclusion of my colleagues that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this case under the provisions of 2610.
John G. Corry