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Cypen & Cypen
NEWSLETTER
for
FEBRUARY 17, 2005

Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor

Never Forget - September 11, 2001

1. IRA AT AGE 30:

The Investment Company Institute has issued a new research paper entitled “The Individual Retirement Account at Age 30: A Retrospective.” A little over thirty years ago, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act became law. Its purpose was to protect and enhance Americans’ retirement security by establishing comprehensive standards for employee benefit plans. ERISA also created the Individual Retirement Account (IRA). To give the new account flexibility in accumulating assets for retirement, Congress designed a dual role for the IRA. One was to give individuals not covered by retirement plans at work an opportunity to save for retirement on their own in tax-deferred accounts made available through private financial institutions. The other was to give retiring workers or individuals who change jobs a means to preserve employer-sponsored retirement plan assets by allowing them to transfer (or rollover) plan balances into IRAs. Since 1974, Congress has made many changes to the IRA. It created new IRAs with simple, understandable features designed to encourage small businesses to make retirement plans available to their workers. It also created an IRA that allows only after-tax contributions but generally exempts investment earnings from taxation. In addition, Congress has raised limits on the amounts that individuals are allowed to contribute to their IRAs. And, at times, it expanded the eligibility for tax-deductible IRA contributions to all workers under age 70-1/2 and, at other times restricted eligibility. The past thirty years clearly show that the IRA has successfully promoted and sustained retirement saving among many Americans. Americans had $3 Trillion in IRAs by the end of 2003. In fact, IRAs were the largest component of the $11.6 Trillion U.S. retirement market, representing 1 out of every 4 retirement dollars. Further attesting to the importance of the IRA in the retirement savings system, 45.2 million U.S. households -- that is, 40.4% -- owned IRAs in 2004. In addition, the typical IRA-owning household holds more than one-fifth of its financial assets in IRAs. The entire 24-page report can be accessed at http://www.ici.org/pdf/per1101.pdf.

2. POLICE CHIEF’S ADVISORY GROUP SUBJECT TO SUNSHINE LAW:

The chief of police of a Florida city convened a group of city residents and staff to discuss and provide input on various issues affecting the police department. The group makes recommendations to the police chief. Although it is possible that some of the group’s recommendations could result in a recommendation by the police chief to the city commission, the group’s primary purpose is to make recommendations to the police chief for use in his capacity as head of the police department. Thus, the city attorney asked the Florida Attorney General whether or not the latter fact would remove the group from the ambit of the Sunshine Law. The Attorney General concluded that the group’s function was not limited to fact-finding (a recognized exception to the Sunshine Law), and thus was subject to that open meetings law. AGO 2005-05 (February 9, 2005).

3. A CITY POLICE OFFICER WORKING OFF-DUTY FOR PRIVATE EMPLOYER MAY BE COVERED BY CITY’S WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE:

According to the Florida Attorney General, the provisions of Section 440.091, Florida Statutes, govern whether a police officer working off-duty is covered by the city’s workers’ compensation plan. Thus, the city would be responsible for injuries sustained by a police officer acting “in the line of duty” (that is, in fulfillment of his primary responsibility), so long as the officer’s actions do not also constitute a service for which he is paid by a private employer, unless the public employer has agreed to provide workers’ compensation coverage for the private employment. The determination of responsibility in any given instance, however, will depend upon the particular facts. AGO 2005-10 (February 9, 2005).

4. FLORIDA CITY MAY NOT REQUIRE USE OF CODE TO VIEW PUBLIC RECORDS:

A Florida city makes its e-mail correspondence available for review by the public on a designated computer screen and terminal located in city hall. The public is given access to all e-mails for the city except those from the police department and the human resources department. In order to access the latter, a citizen is required to use a code that must be obtained from the city clerk. Citizens are not told that such e-mails are unavailable without the code and are not otherwise informed of the code requirement. In addition, in order for a citizen to gain access to police department e-mail correspondence, the police department must be contacted, and a law enforcement officer who has access to the code is assigned to sit with the requestor while he reviews any such records. The Florida Attorney General concluded that Florida’s Public Records Law, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, precludes this practice. While the city may delay producing public records in order to delete any information that may be confidential or exempt under provisions of the Public Records Law, no automatic delay may be imposed and the city may not use a code in order to frustrate the public’s access to its records. AGO 2005-12 (February 9, 2005).


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Items in this Newsletter may be excerpts or summaries of original or secondary source material, and may have been reorganized for clarity and brevity. This Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended to provide specific legal or other advice.


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