Court Rejects County Appeal on Rowe Pension Case

By Bryan P. Sears

The Court of Special Appeals decision is the latest to go against the county in its case against former County Auditor Brian Rowe.

Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals has denied an appeal by Baltimore County to reconsider a pension decision involving a former county auditor.

In its decision, the three-judge panel ruled that the Baltimore County Board of Appeals had not made a mistake when it ruled in 2008 that the county incorrectly calculated Brian Rowe’s pension.

The appeals court also declined to enter a monetary judgment in the appeal in favor of Rowe but the judges ruled that “the County is obligated to pay Rowe his underpaid retirement benefits” or face additional legal action.”

Rowe has already filed in Harford County Circuit Court seeking the payment of underpaid retirement benefits on behalf of himself and other county retirees like him.

Rowe retired from the county in 2007. At the time, the county Employees Retirement System calculated that Rowe’s final pension should be reduced by nearly $165,000.

The reason for the reduction was that Rowe came to work for the county after working for Maryland government.

Baltimore County has a contributory pension system while the state system is non-contributory—meaning that Rowe did not contribute to his own retirement in the county system for the years that he worked for the state.

Under current state law, government employees who move from a non-contributory system to a contributory system must be given credit for their time served. The law then allows the county to reduce the final pension payment to account for the payments that the employees never made into the system plus 5 percent interest compounded annually.

But the county in 2007 calculated Rowe’s pension reduction based on a nearly 8 percent rate—the same rate it uses as an expectation on interest earned on investments.

Rowe appealed and the Board of Appeals agreed as did a Circuit Court ruling in 2011.

The county’s appeal sought to have the matter returned to the Board of Appeals. The three-judge Court of Special Appeals panel found no reason to do so.

The unreported decision was filed Oct. 3.

The ruling is the latest in its case against Rowe.

Earlier this year, County Administrative Officer Fred Homan asked county legislators to support a bill that would have overturned the county Board of Appeals decision before the Court of Appeals could rule on the case.

The county said the law would affect about 150 current employees and save the county about $400,000.

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