Rights of Deferred Members

Our office occasionally receives questions about whether a deferred member of a relief association can serve as a trustee on the relief association’s board of trustees. In response to these questions, we wanted to provide information on rights that deferred members of a relief association have, and options available for a relief association’s board of trustees to define those rights.

As a nonprofit corporation, a relief association may establish in its bylaws, or articles of incorporation, classes of members. Bylaws should, for example, define active members and deferred members as different classes of members within the relief association.

Generally, a deferred member is a member of the relief association who has separated from active fire department service, is partially or fully vested, but has not yet commenced receipt of a service pension or benefit.

All members of a relief association are entitled to vote and have equal rights and preferences except to the extent that the bylaws or articles of incorporation have fixed or limited the rights and preferences of members or of different classes of members.

It, therefore, may be possible for a relief association to specify in its bylaws or articles of incorporation that deferred members do not have the right to vote, or do not have the right to serve as a trustee on the board.

Without language in the bylaws or articles of incorporation limiting member rights, a deferred member would have the right to vote and would be able to be elected as a trustee to the relief association board.

Note that relief associations have authority to exclude from membership persons who would constitute an unwarranted health risk, and are prohibited from including minors as members of the relief association.

Published last in the September 2021 Pension Newsletter.