ROBERT D. ROSSIGNOL
MAINE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM
Argued: June 10, 2016
A. Cloutier, Esq., Cloutier, Conley & Duffett, P.A.,
Portland, for appellant Robert D. Rossignol
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Christopher L. Mann, Asst.
Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for
appellee Maine Public Employees Retirement System
A. Cloutier, Esq., for appellant Robert D. Rossignol
Christopher L. Mann, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee Maine
Public Employees Retirement System
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Robert D. Rossignol appeals from a judgment entered by the
Superior Court (Kennebec County, Marden, J.)
affirming the decision of the Maine Public Employees
Retirement System (MPERS) Board of Trustees (the Board) to
affirm the Executive Director's designee's denial of
Rossignol's application for disability retirement
benefits. Because the record does not compel the conclusion
that Rossignol has a mental or physical incapacity that
"is expected to be permanent" and makes it
"impossible to perform the duties of [his] employment
position, " 5 M.R.S. § 17921(1)(A), (B) (2015), we
Rossignol was employed as a special education teacher at
Regional School Unit 14 Sebago Education Alliance (SEA) from
August 2009 until June 2010. His last date in service was
April 15, 2010, which was preceded by reports that he was not
effectively controlling students in his classroom. On June 1,
2010, SEA notified Rossignol that it would not renew his
probationary teaching contract.
In January 2011, Rossignol applied to MPERS for disability
retirement benefits. See 5 M.R.S. § 17925
(2015). In his application, he alleged that he suffers from
major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and
panic attacks, which make it impossible for him to perform
the duties of his position at SEA. The Executive Director's
designee ultimately denied Rossignol's application,
see 5 M.R.S. § 17105(2)(C) (2015), and
Rossignol appealed to the Board, see 5 M.R.S. §
17451(1) (2015). In September 2014, after holding a hearing
that ran over the course of several months, a hearing officer
issued a recommended final decision, see 5 M.R.S.
§ 17106-A (2015), proposing a determination that
Rossignol failed to establish that he was disabled pursuant
to 5 M.R.S. § 17921(1), thereby affirming the Executive
Director's designee's denial of disability retirement
In April 2015, the Board adopted the hearing officer's
recommended final decision and denied Rossignol's
application for disability retirement benefits on the grounds
that (1) although the record demonstrated that he had major
depressive disorder, he had not proved that the condition
made it impossible for him to perform the essential duties of
his employment as of his last date in service; and (2) he had
failed to prove that as of that date, he had diagnosable
conditions of generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks.
Rossignol filed a complaint for review of the Board's
decision in the Superior Court, see 5 M.R.S.
§§ 11001-11007 (2015); M.R. Civ. P. 80C, which
affirmed the Board's decision. Rossignol appealed to us,
arguing that the evidence compelled the Board to grant his
application for disability retirement benefits.
In order to qualify for disability retirement benefits, an
applicant must demonstrate that he or she has a mental or
physical incapacity that "is expected to be
permanent" and that the incapacity makes it
"impossible to perform the duties of [the
applicant's] employment position." 5 M.R.S.
§§ 17921(1)(A), (B), 17924(1) (2015).
On an appeal from intermediate appellate review of an
administrative decision, "we review directly the
original decision of the fact-finding agency, without
deference to the ruling on the intermediate appeal by the
court from which the appeal is taken." Anderson v.
Me. Pub. Emps. Ret. Sys., 2009 ME 134, ¶ 2, 985
A.2d 501. As the fact-finder, the Board has the authority to
determine the weight to be given to the evidence, and we will
not substitute our judgment for the Board's. Id.
¶¶ 27-28; 5 M.R.S. § 11007(3). As the party
seeking to vacate the Board's decision, Rossignol bears
the burden of persuasion on appeal to demonstrate error
below. Anderson, 2009 ME 134, ¶ 3, 985 A.2d
501. Because Rossignol bore the burden of proof before the