Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for
the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket No.
C607425 Honorable Todd Hernandez, Judge Presiding
D. Wilson John A. London, III Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel
for Plaintiff/Appellant Frank Vine
Matthew G. Tessier Roy A. Mongrue, Jr. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee Teachers' Retirement
System of Louisiana
D. Boyer Scott Nettles Denham Springs, Louisiana Counsel for
Defendant/ Appellee West Feliciana Parish School Board
Hammonds Wayne T. Stewart Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for
Defendant/ Appellee Pointe Coupee Parish School Board
BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.
herein, Frank Vine, appeals a judgment rendered in favor of
Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana, the West
Feliciana Parish School Board, and the Pointe Coupee Parish
School Board. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
herein, Frank Vine, was a Certified School Psychologist from
1983 through 2018. Mr. Vine was employed by various school
systems in regular full-time positions for eleven years, from
the summer of 1983 until the summer of 1994. During this
time, Mr. Vine's employers remitted employee retirement
withholdings and employer retirement contributions
(collectively, "retirement contributions") to
Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana
("TRSL") on Mr. Vine's behalf. This full-time
income was reported by IRS Form W-2.
August of 1994, Mr. Vine resigned from his full-time position
as a school psychologist with the West Feliciana Parish
School Board ("WFPSB"). Following this resignation,
Mr. Vine contracted with WFPSB, Pointe Coupee Parish School
Board ("PCPSB"), and St. Helena Parish School Board
("SHPSB") to provide school counseling services on
a part-time basis. During this time from August 1994 - August
2006, no retirement contributions were made to TRSL on Mr.
Vine's behalf. Mr. Vine's part-time income was
reported on IRS Form 1099 ("1099 earnings").
Vine became a full-time employee of PCPSB in August of 2006.
Mr. Vine continued to work full-time for PCPSB until his
retirement on January 22, 2014. PCPSB made appropriate
retirement contributions to TRSL on Mr. Vine's behalf
during this time.
December of 2009, while still working full-time for PCPSB,
Mr. Vine contacted TRSL to inquire about potentially
purchasing additional years of "service credit"
pursuant to LSA-R.S. 11:158. While speaking with Martha Rosa
of TRSL, the conversation turned to whether WFPSB, PCPSB, and
SHPSB should have remitted retirement contributions on Mr.
Vine's behalf for his 1099 earnings when he worked
part-time. On the advice of Ms. Rosa, Mr. Vine collected
records relative to the part-time work in question.
Vine contacted Ms. Rosa again in March of 2010. Ms. Rosa
directed him to Venetia Pitts (now Venetia Clark), who was
then an Accounting Supervisor for TRSL. In a March 11, 2010
email to Ms. Pitts, Mr. Vine wrote that Ms. Rosa "had
suggested that there was a possibility that the [p]arishes
that I contracted [with] should have been paying retirement
assessments on me, as I was a vested TRSL member by that
time; however, she was not sure, and suggested I contact
you." Ms. Pitts agreed to assist Mr. Vine in contacting
WFPSB, PCPSB, and SHPSB regarding the issue. She contacted
SHPSB first, on March 25, 2010. On October 22, 2010, Ms.
Pitts confirmed to Mr. Vine that SHPSB had submitted
retirement contributions for his 1099 earnings to his
Vine contacted WFPSB in September of 2010. He spoke with
Helen B. Davis, who was then Supervisor of Finance and
Management for WFPSB, and Karen Raby, who was then payroll
specialist for WFPSB. In a letter dated November 10, 2010,
Ms. Davis reported that WFPSB had researched Mr. Vine's
request "that monies [he] earned under contract with
[WFPSB] be submitted to [TRSL] as covered
employment." Attached documents reflected that WFPSB
had determined it should have made employer retirement
contributions in the amount of $19, 509.74 and should have
withheld employee contributions in the amount of $10, 333.80
for Mr. Vine's part-time work for WFPSB, for a total
retirement contribution amount of $29, 843.54. Ms. Davis
requested that Mr. Vine submit his share of the contributions
"due for the years of covered employment" to WFPSB,
as Ms. Pitts had advised that WFPSB should collect Mr.
Vine's contributions and submit them to TRSL together
with WFPSB's contributions. Mr. Vine submitted his share
of the retirement contributions to WFPSB as requested. In
December of 2010, WFPSB deposited $29, 843.54 with TRSL for
Mr. Vine's 1099 earnings.
December of 2010, Mr. Vine met with Linda D'Amico, then
superintendent of PCPSB, and Bobbie Jarreau, then bookkeeper
of PCPSB. PCPSB began looking into Mr. Vine's concerns.
January 3, 2011, Benjamin Foster, Accounting Manager of TRSL,
informed Mr. Vine that TRSL was going to "reverse"
the contribution payments that had been made by SHPSB and
WFPSB. Following this conversation, Mr. Foster sent an email
dated January 4, 2011 to Ms. Pitts and Dana Vicknair,
Assistant Director of TRSL. In the email, Mr. Foster wrote:
[TRSL] initially communicated to Mr. Vine back in March 2010
that his 1099 earnings were reportable... Later in 2010,
however, [TRSL] became aware that earnings derived solely as
an independent contractor were not reportable to TRSL. Based
on this, [TRSL] informed Mr. Vine that his earnings were not
[SHPSB] has reported their information to TRSL for Mr. Vine,
[WFPSB] just reported and their data is being processed by
Cost, and [PCPSB] has not reported but has indicated to us
today that they would report if required to do so.
December 7, 2011, Mr. Vine instituted this lawsuit. On May
14, 2015, the trial court denied a motion for summary
judgment filed by WFPSB. On November 19, 2015, the trial
court denied Mr. Vine's motion for partial summary
judgment as to the proper interpretation of Louisiana
Administrative Code, Title 58, Part III, Chapter 2, §
201. On August 23, 2106, the trial court denied TRSL's
exception of no cause of action, and also denied exceptions
of prescription filed by TRSL, WFPSB, and PCPSB.
trial on the merits was held on April 3 and April 4, 2018.
Rather than hearing oral arguments, the trial court requested
post-trial memorandums or arguments. On June 28, 2018, the
trial court issued written reasons for judgment, rendering
judgment in favor of TRSL, WFPSB, and PCPSB, which provide in
At trial, the plaintiff had the burden of proving by a
preponderance of the evidence that at all times for which he
claims the defendants were obligated to make contributions to
his retirement that he was an employee of either a city or
parish school board pursuant to the provisions of LSA-R.S.
11:701 et seq. After considering the totality of
evidence submitted at trial, the court concludes that the
plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proof on this
essential element of his claim and for that reason, the court
orders that a Judgment issue herein in favor of the
defendants and against plaintiff.
judgment dismissing all of Mr. Vine's claims against TRSL
and WFPSB was executed on August 16, 2018. From this
judgment, Mr. Vine appeals, raising the following assignments
1. The trial court erred in failing to grant Mr. Vine's
motion for partial summary judgment as to the defendants'
liability and in failing properly to interpret the applicable
law, the Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 58, Part III,
Chapter 2, § 201, which required defendants to make
retirement contributions on Mr. Vine's behalf even when
he was a "nonemployee contractor." Specifically,
the trial court erred in interpreting the law to require Mr.
Vine to prove he was an employee of either a city or parish
school board pursuant to the provisions of LSA-R.S. 11:701,
et seq., in order for the defendants to be obligated
to make contributions to his retirement.
2. Alternatively, the trial court erred in deciding that Mr.
Vine failed to establish that he was an employee pursuant to
LSA-R.S. 11:701, et seq., or was not otherwise a
member of TRSL and entitled to contributions in light of
LSA-R.S. 11:162, TRSL Louisiana Teacher Retirement Handbooks,
and the Fishbein v. State ex rel. Louisiana State Univ.
Health Scis. Ctr., 2004-2482 (La. 4/12/05), 898 So.2d
1260, 1262, decision, and all the relevant law regarding
independent contractor versus employee status.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
Vine alleges that the trial court erred in denying his motion
for partial summary judgment regarding the interpretation of
Section 201. Appellate courts review summary judgments de
novo. Louisiana Horsemen's Benev. & Protective
Ass'n 1993, Inc. v. Fair Grounds Corp., 2002-1928
(La. 4/9/03), 845 So.2d 1039, 1041. Mr. Vine also asserts
that the trial court erred by interpreting LSA-R.S. 11:701 to
require WFPSB and PCPSB to make retirement contributions on
Mr. Vine's 1099 earnings only if Mr. Vine was an
employee. Appellate courts review questions of law which
involve statutory interpretation de novo. Tanana v.
Tanana, 2012-1013 (La.App. 1 Or. 5/31/13), 140 So.3d
738, 742. Accordingly, this Court's review of this
assignment of error is de novo. See Billeaudeau
v. Opelousas Gen. Hosp. Auth., 2016-0846 (La. 10/19/16),
218 So.3d 513, 520.
Administrative Code Title 58, Part III, Chapter 2, §
201, entitled "Earnable Compensation Accounts"
("Section 201"), provides:
A. Earnable compensation shall not include compensation paid
to an active member or to an inactive member of Teachers'
Retirement System of Louisiana (TRSL) if the compensation is
paid by a secondary employer and is reported to the Internal