from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Mitchell E.
Public Employees' Retirement System recipient appeals
from an adverse benefits calculation. AFFIRMED.
Michael Paul Valde, Coralville, pro se.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Lucas W. Dawson and David
L.D. Faith II, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellees.
P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
Valde appeals from the district court's denial of his
request for relief on judicial review. Valde asserts that his
contract and property rights in his Iowa Public
Employees' Retirement System (IPERS) public pension
benefits were contravened in violation of the Iowa
Constitution and the United States Constitution.
Facts and Background
facts in this case are undisputed. Valde was employed with
the State in an IPERS-covered position from 1977 through
1981, 1991 through 1996, and 1999 through most of 2002.
Combining these periods, Valde had a total of
thirteen-and-a-half years of IPERS-covered service. When
Valde left IPERS-covered employment in 2002, he was not yet
eligible to retire.
2015, Valde filed an application for IPERS retirement
benefits. IPERS sent Valde a letter of award notifying him of
a monthly retirement benefit of $1, 667.49 based on a final
average salary of $86, 752.27. IPERS used Valde's salary
from 2000 through 2002 (the "calendar method") to
calculate this figure. The calendar method was set out in the
governing statute in 2015. Valde appealed to IPERS claiming
the formula used was incorrect and that the agency should
have used the average of his highest twelve consecutive
quarters of service (the "quarter method") for a
final average of salary of $89, 755.47. Valde claimed that he
was entitled to the quarter method since a statute in effect
in 2002-when he left IPERS-covered employment-arguably
provided for such a formula. Valde claimed a constitutional
property and contract interest in the 2002 level of benefits.
2016, IPERS made a final agency determination in favor of the
calendar method. The determination was based on two
rationales. First, under Iowa Code chapter 97B (2016) and the
surrounding administrative rules, IPERS was required to apply
the law and formula in effect on the date of the member's
retirement. These rules were all in place prior to 2002.
Second, while the Iowa General Assembly enacted legislation
in 2000 to implement the quarter method at a future date,
that legislation was repealed before such a future date ever
occurred. Therefore, the quarter method was never actually
used in calculating awarded benefits.
appealed the final agency determination. A hearing on the
matter occurred before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The
ALJ entered a proposed decision in favor of IPERS. Valde
appealed to the Employment Appeal Board, which adopted the
proposed decision. Finally, Valde filed a petition for
judicial review pursuant to Iowa Code section 17A.19 arguing
IPERS violated his constitutionally protected contract and
property rights. In January 2017, the district court denied
the request for relief concluding there is "no property
or contract right in a retirement payment system." Valde
Standard of Review
appeals from administrative decisions are reviewed for
substantial evidence. See Titan Tire Corp. v. Emp't
Appeal Bd., 641 N.W.2d 752, 754 (Iowa 2003). However, we
review constitutional law challenges de novo. Adair
Benev. Soc. v. State, 489 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Iowa 1992)
("Usually when fact questions in a contested case are
involved, we apply the substantial evidence standard ...