CHARLESTON - Eleven troopers from the West Virginia State Police Department and one widow of a deceased trooper have filed a suit against the state and state government departments because they are not receiving the pension plan they were promised.
A suit filed in Kanawha Circuit Court on Jan. 2 claims the troopers were given written documentation they would qualify for a retirement plan, known as Plan A. However, the suit states several troopers were placed in the retirement system Plan B with no notification.
"Plan A Retirement benefits amount to two to five times the benefits of Plan B and over the retirement life of a trooper, amounts to a value difference of several hundred thousand dollars," the suit states.
State Troopers are required to forego benefits under Workers' Compensation and Social Security.
"Being a State Trooper is, at times, an extremely dangerous occupation or profession requiring each State Trooper to place their life and health in harms way," the suit says. "Consequently, retirement, death and disability benefits are extremely important and critical consideration for persons contemplating employment as a West Virginia State Trooper."
The suit says the troopers gave up other careers and educational opportunities, and some relocated their families to be West Virginia State Troopers, with the promised pension Plan A.
The troopers are all members of cadet classes 42 though 45 cadet of the West Virginia State Police. The suit says the troopers were promised pension benefits under Plan A. The suit also claims the troopers Constitutional rights were violated.
"The Retirement Board's decision to place (troopers) in Plan B Retirement is a deprivation of (troopers') Constitutional rights in that the course of conduct treats (troopers) substantially different from others of the same class and it deprives them of their property rights," the suit states.
Plan B was created by the state Legislature on March 12, 1994. The troopers named as plaintiffs in the case were recruited and promised they would receive Plan A.
The suit also says the troopers are entitled to Plan A benefits based upon their time in service.
Some troopers in the suit also stated that being on Plan B placed an added burden on their families. Plan B provides about half of Plan A benefits for people who retire, are disabled, or die.
The suit states that none of the troopers were advised their benefits would be Plan B until several years had expired.
The troopers learned about their coverage under Plan B in December of 2001, and then filed a petition with the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, claiming they were entitled to benefits under Plan A.
In the 2001 petition, the troopers stated "the Retirement Board had specific statutory authority to correct this mistake and to provide (troopers) with an adequate remedy for the violation of their constitutional rights by issuing a ruling that was with West Virginia law."
"The errors were made by the Board not informing its members of their benefits and by the State Police promising Plan A, to these young troopers by brochures and written documents; yet, once they were committed to their careers and had detrimentally relied on those documents and promises, they have been told they are in Plan B. This Board has the authority and should correct this problem," the suit says.
The suit states the circuit court refused relief in the 2001 suit.
In a seven-count suit, the troopers seek an accounting of the amounts due be paid to the pension funds, and if the amounts have not been paid, then the court bring actions against the defendants.
The plaintiffs of the case are Dawn Colette Bland and Autumn Nicole Bland, the wife and infant daughter of Douglas Wayne Bland; Troopers Robert Elswick, Michael Lynch, Timothy Bragg, Christopher Casto, Shawn Coleman, Jeffrey Cooper, Brad Mankins, Christopher Parsons, Roger Boone, Steven Owens, Adam Scott, and all others similarly situated.
The defendants are the State of West Virginia; West Virginia State Police Retirement System; West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board; West Virginia Public Employees Retirement System; Terasa L. Miller; and the West Virginia State Police.
Marvin W. Masters in the attorney for the troopers, and the case has been assigned to Judge Jim Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-2