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Fed court sides with Jacksonville in pension challenge

A federal court in Jacksonville sided Wednesday with the city of Jacksonville over a challenge filed by former Police and Fire Pension Fund head John Keane because of cuts in his pension benefits.

Keane saw his benefits boosted to $234,000 a year by the board instituting the Senior Staff Voluntary Retirement Fund. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the fund was created improperly and ordered that Keane be pensioned at the level of the General Employee Retirement Fund only ($187,000).

Keane wanted damages and injunctive relief as well as the court saying the fund was valid. The city position was it was outside of the purview of the board to create the second fund.

Keane’s challenge was rooted in the idea that he had a constitutionally guaranteed right to the pension, yet the court was not moved, and the complaint was dismissed.

Jacksonville has wrestled with pension issues for over a decade now, with the defined benefit plan that applied to pre-2016 hires racking up over $3 billion in unfunded liabilities.

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In 2016, the city instituted a defined contribution plan, in exchange for agreeing to raises across the board from employees.

Police and fire fared the best, receiving 20 percent salary hikes over the course of three years.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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