On Wednesday, Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel informed the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund that it has no voice in the current pension reform package.
And ahead of the PFPF meeting on Friday morning, it appears the trustees have taken his message to heart. After a “break” on the agenda, the trustees have scheduled “review and discussion” of the pension reform surtax.
“Our office has reviewed these issues closely and as described below, from the Florida Constitution on down to the 2015 pension reform agreement (2015 Agreement), such matters are solely within the domain of the City and Unions, and not the Board,” Gabriel asserted in his Wednesday letter.
“Because the 2015 Agreement specifically contemplates that future retirement benefit changes would be negotiated by the City and its police and firefighter unions, and because that is precisely what happened in 2017, the 2015 Agreement does not need to be amended to reflect the 2017 retirement benefit changes,” Gabriel added.
This report comes in the same week that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry extended the Mar. 15 deadline for a vote out two days, so that the PFPF could weigh in at its Friday meeting. This was In February, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees balked at a Mar. 15 deadline to vote on the city’s latest pension plan.
However, Gabriel’s position seems to make the PFPF input essentially advisory, and with the police and fire unions both on board, the trustees are poorly positioned to make a case aga
The board had worried that there would not be enough time to review the data of the new plan, which offers raises and uniformity of benefits for current employees, while providing a new defined contribution plan for future hires — offering a 25 percent city match and assurances that death and disability benefits would substantially be the same as they are for current employees.
The Curry administration took necessary steps to educate the board on the plan, but it seems that the general counsel’s ultimate position is that the board has no authority on this matter.
General Counsel Gabriel has, since Curry took office, repeatedly reminded the PFPF that it is a subsidiary of the city, and that the ultimate legal authority in Jacksonville rests in the OGC.
This could end up in federal court if the PFPF challenges the OGC position.
“The 2015 agreement is overseen by a federal judge. If the pension fund decides to challenge Gabriel’s position, it will fall to U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard to settle the dispute,” the T-U report notes.
Meanwhile, Gabriel is confident that “the Board does not need to take any further action as the 2017 negotiated agreements are in conformance with the terms of the 2015 Agreement and Florida law.”
He will be at the Friday PFPF board meeting to discuss this further.
However, what is clear: the trustees’ take on the deal means little to him — or the Curry administration.