Officer Who Agrees To Retire Has No Right To Participate In DROP Program

Glenn Ikalina was a police officer with the City of Pembroke Pines, Florida. When the City suspended Ikalina, he challenged his suspension through the arbitration process in the collective bargaining agreement covering him. While the arbitration was pending, Ikalina and the City agreed to a settlement in which Ikalina agreed to retire.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Ikalina would be maintained on full-pay status until April 16, 2004, at which point he would receive “all standard/normal retirement benefits that any other Police Department employee receives.” The agreement also provided that the Arbitrator retained jurisdiction for purposes of carrying out the terms of the agreement.

The day before Ikalina agreed to retire, he appeared before the City’s pension board to apply for and request participation in the City’s DROP program. The DROP program is available to all active City employees who have attained “normal retirement status,” and allows employees to continue working for up to five years. During the “DROP period,” the participants’ pension payments are deposited into an interest-bearing DROP account.

The City refused to allow Ikalina to participate in the DROP program, citing the terms of his settlement agreement. When Ikalina filed a lawsuit contesting the City’s decision, a court referred the matter to the original arbitrator.

The Arbitrator found that the City had complied with the terms of the settlement agreement. The Arbitrator held “under the Pension Plan’s specific language pertaining to the DROP program, DROP terminates or ends when the police officer’s employment ends. Thus, by signing the settlement agreement, his last day of employment as a City police officer was April 16, 2004. It follows, accordingly, that after such date he was no longer eligible for DROP.” After receiving the Arbitrator’s opinion, the trial court dismissed Ikalina’s lawsuit. Ikalina appealed the order of dismissal to the Florida Court of Appeals.

The Court upheld the Arbitrator’s decision. The Court found that Ikalina’s settlement agreement specifically provided for the retention of jurisdiction by the Arbitrator to carry out the terms of the settlement agreement. The Court also concluded that Ikalina’s continued right to work after April 16, 2004, “was within the reserve jurisdiction of the Arbitrator. The question of whether the City was providing the appropriate benefits, including DROP, was a question of whether the City had properly carried out the terms of the agreement. The trial court did not err in adopting the Arbitrator’s findings in dismissing this case.”

Ikalina v. City of Pembroke Pines, 2007 WL 4404443 (Fla.App. 2007).

This article appears in the February 2008 issue