Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry didn’t make it to Friday’s meeting of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund.
But he dropped a bomb in the aftermath of the contentious conclave.
Curry started off genially: “I’d like to thank four of the five board members who met with our team leading up to today’s meeting and working with us to solve this pension crisis.”
Then, the mayor took the gloves off.
“It’s no surprise that one of the five – the board chairman Richard Tuten – a crony left over from the Keane era – continues to conduct himself with little regard for taxpayers. In fact, Chairman Tuten has been a PFPF board member since 2003 . During these times, he was a part of some of the most egregious decisions in the history of the board which involved outrageous payouts of taxpayer dollars,” Curry noted.
We’ve reached out to the mayor’s office for more detail on these “egregious decisions” and the resultant “outrageous payouts of taxpayer dollars.”
The PFPF Board meeting was interesting, in that Board Chair Tuten was singularly vexed and disputative, being charged with a “diatribe” from a board colleague.
“I think the mayor’s deal is terrible,” Tuten said, raising questions repeatedly over the lack of specific detail in the proposal, which would remove provisions of a 2015 pension deal that Tuten voted against at the time.
Discussion got more heated during the discussion of the need for an actuarial study, with Tuten comparing General Counsel Jason Gabriel’s words to a pitch from a “used car salesman.”
“It takes time. We need to get something from the state saying we aren’t wasting our time,” Tuten said, regarding guidance from the state on the city’s optimistic rate of anticipated payroll growth — which, at 1.5 percent, is more than twice the real rate over the last decade.
Tuten also had issue with Gabriel deciding the board didn’t have a vote on the deal … a position arrived at this week by the OGC, which is locked in an extended tango of power struggle with the PFPF.
“It seems all of a sudden you don’t need the board approval … There’s a whole host of theories as to why you came out with this opinion when you did … days before we meet,” Tuten said.
Tuten wondered how an agreement between the city and the unions could loop out the PFPF from a “former contract of the past.”
“This is of some sort of urgency,” Tuten said, “you met with the four trustees then pop up and say ‘hey, we don’t need you anymore’.”
“Nobody knows what he’s proposing. It’s all hush-hush, hurry-hurry … a cynic mght say the mayor’s trying to avoid bad press and controversy,” Tuten thundered, wondering if the mayor thought the vote would go bad for the deal.
Tuten and Gabriel engaged in spirited cross talk as to whether the general counsel was the lawyer for the plan or not, with Tuten saying the plans were taken from the city oversight by the state, and that there was a potential of “conflict of interest.”
“Who hired you? Who fired you? The mayor is the one who tells you what to do,” Tuten said, “not us.”
Tuten, as the morning progressed, found no backup from board members in his arguments — indeed, at least one colleague was being lauded for his even keel by a member of the Office of General Counsel after the meeting.
“For the record, I think the mayor’s plan is terrible,” Tuten said, regarding “putting off a problem now for a problem 20 or 30 years from now.”
“I don’t see them deviating from the plan,” Tuten added, asking “are we going to have to sue them to stop?”
The board would need the state Attorney General’s approval to sue, and that isn’t likely.
We’ve reached out to Curry’s office for specific examples of the aforementioned “egregious decisions.”
Though it’s late on Friday, history reminds us that when Curry is vexed by an adversary, he often puts in overtime to make his point.
Check back for updates.