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Cirincione v. Plumbers Local Union No. 200 Pension Fund

September 24, 2009

ANDREW CIRINCIONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PLUMBERS LOCAL UNION NO. 200 PENSION FUND, AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PLUMBERS LOCAL UNION NO. 200 PENSION FUND, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seybert, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pending before the Court is Defendant Plumber's Local Union No. 200 Pension Fund's (the "Fund") and Defendant Board of Trustees of the Plumber's Local Union No. 200 Pension Fund's (the "Board") (collectively the "Defendants") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Plumbers Local Union No. 200 Pension Fund is an employee pension plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1). (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) Defendant Board of the Plumbers Local Union No. 200 Pension Fund is the Fund's fiduciary and administers the Pension Plan ("Plan"). (Id. ¶ 2.) The Plan provides pension benefits to retired participants. Plaintiff Andrew Cirincione ("Cirincione") is a Plan participant, and began receiving early benefits in or about April 1999. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 10.)

The crux of this dispute surrounds the meaning of the Plan terms. Under Section V, subsection F, the Plan states, in part:

* pensioners who are under age 65*fn1 will have their benefits suspended for any month they are re-employed for one or more hours of service in the industry, trade or craft or geographic area (emphasis supplied);*fn2

* pensioners who accept employment within that criteria must notify the pension fund of their employment; and

* if benefits are paid in any month for which they should have been suspended, the overpayment will be recovered by deductions from future monthly payments.

(Defs.' Ex. A, § V(F).) The contract defines the terms "industry," "trade or craft," and "geographic area," but leaves the term "re-employed" undefined. (Id.) The Plan also grants the Board of Trustees exclusive right to interpret the Plan to decide any matters arising in connection with Plan administration. (Id. § VII(c).)

County Pneumatic Controls, Inc. ("CPC") operates a business that is in the same industry, or trade or craft, as Plaintiff's previous employer. (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4; Pl.'s 2d Am. R. 56.1 Counter-Stmt. ¶ 4.) CPC is also located within the same geographic area or jurisdiction. (Id.) During the years 1999-2007, Cirincione served as CPC's president, and from 1999 through the present, he also served as its owner. (Pl.'s 2d Am. R. 56.1 Counter-Stmt. ¶ 5.) Despite this involvement, on or about June 30, 2006, Cirincione executed and submitted to the Fund a questionnaire in which he certified that he was not employed either in the plumbing trade or industry, or outside the plumbing trade or industry. (Defs.' R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17.)

The Plan learned of Cirincione's position as CPC's president and owner after the Suffolk County District Attorney investigated Cirincione and CPC for failing to pay employees prevailing wages, and submitting fraudulent certified payroll records in violation of New York State Labor Law. (Id. ¶¶ 19-24.) Subsequently, on March 10, 2006, Cirincione pleaded guilty in County Court in Suffolk County to a violation of New York Penal Law § 170.10, Falsifying a Business Record in the First Degree (Class E Felony), and CPC pleaded guilty to a violation of New York Penal Law § 170.05, Falsifying a Business Record in the Second Degree. (Id. ¶ 23.) In addition, in a Nassau County criminal proceeding, Cirincione and CPC pleaded guilty to a violation of New York Penal Law § 170.35, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (Class E Felony). (Id. ¶ 26.)

By letter dated November 28, 2006, Fund Director Frank Pellegrino informed Cirincione of the Fund's decision to suspend his monthly pension benefit. (Id. ¶ 27.) Thereafter, following an appeal to the Fund's Board of Trustees (Id. ¶ 28), Cirincione commenced this suit to restore his pension benefits (see generally Compl.). The Fund counterclaimed and demanded that Cirincione reimburse the Fund for the amount of pension benefits he received, totaling $70,265.92. (See 2d Am. Ans. and Countercl.) Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for benefits, and their counterclaims for restitution on November 12, 2008.

DISCUSSION

I. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Rule 56: Standard of Review

A party seeking summary judgment has the burden to establish that "there is no genuine dispute concerning any material facts," and, therefore, it "is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Harvis Trien & Beck, P.C. v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 153 F.3d 61, 67 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986); McLee v. Chrysler Corp., 109 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 1997). "In assessing the record to determine whether there is a genuine issue to be tried as to any material fact, the court ...


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