Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund

Bonnie Zerr / WJCT

It’s not every day a multi-Emmy award winner hangs out in your workplace.

But it happened. And we’ll bring you hip hop violinist Damien Escobar on this episode of Redux.

We also give you the lowdown on the years-old saga involving the development of Metropolitan Park, and we’ll give an update about neonatal care in Orange Park.

But first, two stories that have gripped Jacksonville in recent years: expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance and pensions.

News4Jax

 

Mayor Lenny Curry on Thursday ordered the city to stop paying retired Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane a controversial pension created for him and two other pension fund employees.

Jacksonville Association of Firefighters

There will be no more legal wrangling over a nullified 30-year pension agreement between the city of Jacksonville and the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

An appeals court Wednesday upheld a decision, voiding the 2001 deal because it was put together behind closed doors in violation of the state’s Sunshine Law. The Pension Fund Board appealed.

Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

 

Jacksonville voters could decide this year whether to extend the Better Jacksonville Plan half-cent sales tax scheduled to expire in 2030.  

Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

 

Updated 2:26 p.m. on 01/04/16

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is asking the state Legislature to extend a half-cent sales tax to pay off the city’s $2.6 billion unfunded pension liability. Police and Fire Pension Fund debt make up more than half of it.

News4Jax

The city has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to terminate a special pension created by the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund for its former executive director, John Keane.

LAWSUIT: City of Jacksonville vs. Police and Fire Pension Fund

We discuss the week's top news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; David Bauerlein, Florida Times-Union reporter; Claire Goforth, Folio Weekly writer; and WJCT analyst John Burr.

Topics include the audit of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, updates about the Eureka Garden affordable housing complex, and more.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love joins us to discuss a variety of issues affecting the city, including the recent independent audit of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, the city's Human Rights Ordinance and more.


Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT News

Jacksonville’s Police and Fire Pension Fund got a D minus on a recent forensic audit. 

Benchmark Financial Services issued its report on the pension plan today at the City Council’s request.

Auditor Edward Siedle says he based the fund’s near-failing grade on what he called a "profound lack of transparency and cooperation" by its overseers.

Jacksonville City Hall, St. James Building
Ray Hollister / WJCT News

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee says it will subpoena Police and Fire Pension Fund executives for documents as part of an audit.

Committee Chairman Bill Gulliford says the independent auditor is being stonewalled when asking for information accessible only by former pension fund administrator John Keane.

“He said that he had instances where he got that response back — no documents or whatever,” Gulliford said, “and yet he had physical emails or letters from another source that indicated those documents were available. Now, which is it? Who’s fibbing?”

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Dan Scanlan, Florida Times-Union reporter; Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor; and Andrew Pantazi, Florida Times-Union reporter.

Topics include the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, pension reform and more.

We also preview several events taking place on the First Coast to welcome new citizens into the city in honor of World Refugee Day this week.

Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

About a dozen Jacksonville police officers and firefighters voiced their thoughts about the city’s new pension plan at a public hearing Thursday afternoon.

The public-safety employees are not happy with the deal.

The public hearing was the final step before the Police and Fire Pension Board votes on the new plan Friday morning.

Earlier this month, Jacksonville City Council passed the pension bill after years of negotiation. The city will have to pay about $350 million over the next 13 years, and police officers and firefighters will face benefit cuts.

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Larry Hannan, Florida Times-Union reporter; Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; A.G. Gancarski, Folio Weekly and Florida Politics columnist; and WJCT analyst John Burr.

Topics include the pension reform deal passed by the Jacksonville City Council this week, Jaguars owner Shad Khan's Stache Investments group starting foreclosure proceedings against the developers of the historic Laura Street Trio, and more.

After a 14 to 4 vote, the Jacksonville City Council passed a long-awaited deal on pension reform Tuesday night. The agreement would change new and current employees’ pension benefits, as well as how the pension fund is governed. The city has also made a commitment to pay and additional $350 million toward the pension’s debt over the next 13 years. We speak with two reporters who covered the meeting, the Florida Times-Union's David Bauerlein, and Florida Politics and Folio Weekly's A.G. Gancarski.

Jacksonville City Hall, St. James Building
Ray Hollister / WJCT News

The Jacksonville City Council passed a bill reforming the Police and Fire Pension Fund Tuesday night.

The decision comes after many years of negotiations.

 

City Council President Clay Yarborough announced the vote of 14 to 4 in favor of the plan. The Police and Fire pension Fund has racked up more than a billion dollars in unfunded debt, and the new deal lays out a framework for how to pay it down.

Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

A judge has sided with the city of Jacksonville in a legal challenge to City Council’s pension negotiations. A local watchdog group had asked Duval Circuit Judge Thomas Beverly  to block an upcoming City Council vote on a new Police and Fire Pension reform bill, but the group’s motion was denied.

Jacksonville City Hall, St. James Building
Ray Hollister / WJCT News

A Jacksonville-based government-watchdog group is challenging the city’s latest pension-reform plan in court.

A judge voided a 30-year pension fund agreement between the city and its police and firefighters in April.

Now, the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County wants the court to essentially throw out a new Police and Fire Pension Fund proposal submitted by City Councilman Bill Gulliford.

Concerned Taxpayers President John Winkler argues only the mayor and the police and firefighter unions can legally negotiate a new pension deal.

Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

A Jacksonville City Council committee approved a pension reform plan Monday morning. The Rules Committee approved the bill, which lays out a 13 year payment plan for the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Committee president Bill Gulliford says his new plan would allow the city to reap the benefit of reduced financial obligations even before there’s a permanent funding source.

Gulliford says the City Council has three options. He says the right decision is the preferable option, but even the wrong decision is better than making no decision at all.

City of Jacksonville

A new plan is on the table to solve the City of Jacksonville’s $1.6 billion pension woes.

Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford announced his proposal for Police and Fire Pension Reform at City Hall Thursday.

The plan calls for many of the same pension benefits as one the City Council rejected last month. But in Gulliford's version, the city would agree not to make further changes to employees' pensions for seven years. Gulliford previously opposed this measure but said times are desperate.

Peter Haden / WJCT

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday revamping how local pensions for police officers and firefighters are funded, bringing closer to resolution a long-running debate over the retirement plans.

The bill (SB 172), which now heads to the House, cleared the upper chamber 36-0 after less than 10 minutes of debate. It relies on a deal struck between cities and unions last year &mdash one that cities have backed away from after the re-election of Gov. Rick Scott in November.

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As city leaders wrangle over a new agreement for retired police and firefighters, a judge has ruled the existing 30-year plan was negotiated in violation of Florida's Sunshine Law.

Judge Thomas Beverly signed the order Tuesday voiding the current 30-year agreement approved by City Council in 2001.

After seven years of discussions, stops and starts, Jacksonville City Council finally came to an answer on a new agreement with the Police and Fire Pension Fund, and that answer is no.

After coming to a vote Wednesday night, the deal did not pass, failing in a 9 - 9 vote.

If current Mayor Alvin Brown wants to push forward with the pension reform he will have to draw up a new deal and submit it the council.

News4Jax

A Jacksonville police officers' union says the ongoing police and firefighter pension woes are making it hard to recruit new officers without guaranteed benefits and hard to keep officers on the force.

Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Amos says Jacksonville Sheriff's Office’s requirement of a four-year college degree and low starting salary — just over $36,000 — makes recruitment tough. Add that to the city’s high rate of violent crime and uncertainty about pension benefits, and it’s an increasingly hard sell.

Jacksonville City Council President Clay Yarborough delayed a final vote on pension reform legislation that was set for this week over what he says are new concerns that have recently surfaced about the deal. What to do about Jacksonville’s mounting pension debt has become a pressing financial problem and one that is playing a role in the city’s mayor’s race. We discuss Jacksonville’s pension issues with UNF president John Delaney and UNF criminologist Dr. Mick Hallett.

David Luckin / WJCT

This evening, the Jacksonville City Council delayed an expected vote on sweeping reforms aimed at digging its Police and Fire Pension Fund out of debt. Council President Clay Yarborough said he was worried about locking in benefit levels for a decade.

Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

When Florida lawmakers return for session tomorrow, one issue they’ll wrestle with is local pension reform. Here in Jacksonville, pension debt is more than 40 percent unfunded. University of North Florida Professor Michael Hallett says part of the city’s problem stems from a state-imposed cap on local tax increases.

“The Police and Fire Pension Fund debt in Jacksonville is in part driven by a longer standing failure to pay into the Police and Fire Pension Fund at the levels that were agreed to contractually,” Hallett said. 

Peter Haden / WJCT

State and local officials and public watchdogs gathered at Jacksonville City Hall yesterday to see what can be done about the city’s pension debt. Presenters from Florida TaxWatch and the Florida League of Cities put Jacksonville’s problem in the context of a statewide pension crisis.

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Larry Hannan, Florida Times-Union reporter; Jeff Billman, Folio Weekly editor; and Tim Gibbons, Jacksonville Business Journal editor.

Topics include national coverage of the decision by Northeast Florida clerks of court to end courthouse weddings following the legalization of same-sex marriage, the sentencing of a local man for conspiring with terrorists, how Jacksonville's pensions problems is playing a role in the mayoral election, and more.

Florida House of Representatives Website

State Representative Janet Adkins joins the show to discuss Jacksonville's Police and Fire Pension Fund. Adkins and other officials have asked Governor Rick Scott to launch an investigation into whether or not the fund has broken any laws. She will be leading a workshop about the city's pension reform efforts on Thursday.

Florida House of Representatives Website

State Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) has asked Gov. Rick Scott for an investigation of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund.

In a letter to Scott last week, Adkins asked for a review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Chief Inspector General to see if any laws were broken in the handling of the pension fund.

"I simply believe that the public trust has been broken," said Adkins. "In order to ensure that our retired firefighters and our retired police officers and the taxpayers are protected, we need to restore that public trust."