As issued by Fireman’s Retirement System of St. Louis:
St. Louis, MO – October 6, 2010 – The Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis and its trustees sued the city of St. Louis today for improperly enacting ordinances concerning the crediting of sick leave benefits contending they would be harmful to city firefighters’ pensions. The lawsuit was filed by FRS in the St. Louis City Circuit Court by Dan Tobben, of Danna McKitrick, P.C. A declaratory judgment, an injunction and other relief has been requested.
In the lawsuit, FRS contends that the changes contained in the recent ordinances are invalid because they contradict the state law. FRS is subject to city ordinances, however the ordinances must comply with, and be consistent with, the state’s enabling legislation. The suit contends the recently passed ordinances concerning sick leave are not in compliance.
One ordinance passed by the Board of Aldermen and then signed into law by Mayor Slay on September 20, 2010 repeals the existing provisions of Chapter 4.18.386 concerning the crediting of sick leave. Another ordinance, passed the same day, renames sick leave as medical leave and does not permit it being accrued or used for pension purposes.
The Civil Service Commission of the City of St. Louis previously challenged this same sick leave ordinance. That case went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, which upheld the ordinance unanimously in 2003, and ruled in favor of FRS.
Vicky Grass, Executive Director of FRS, contends that the City of St. Louis is unfairly singling out the city’s firefighters in its attempts to fix the city’s unbalanced budget.
The City of St. Louis has targeted the city firefighters’ benefits as a way to cut its budget shortfall. Surely, the Mayor does not believe that the firefighters or their pensions are bankrupting the city. The men and women of the fire department are among the hardest working employees in the city and to balance the budget on the backs of firefighters, retirees and their families is not only unfair, it is wrong.
Dan Tobben, attorney for FRS, indicated that state law and city ordinance both guarantee that firefighters be credited with their unused sick leave upon retirement and that accumulated sick leave can be used to vest employees in the retirement system.
State law prohibits caps or limits on accumulated sick leave for current firefighters, which is exactly what the city is attempting to do. The City of St. Louis is clearly violating the law here, and the reasons for their position are hard to understand. At hearings on these bills before a Committee of the Board of Aldermen, there seemed to be resentment related to recent firefighter residency issues, which are completely unrelated to the present situation.
Grass also suggests that the city, through the passage of the offending ordinances, may have ulterior motives.
The City of St. Louis may have passed ordinances that they know full well will be struck down. Perhaps the city may use this lawsuit as an excuse to lay off a significant number of firefighters to try to balance its budget. If the city had not become involved with a number of expensive, failed projects, such as Ballpark Village, the Bottleworks project and the almost empty Crown Candy development, perhaps it wouldn’t be taking these actions against firefighters that may jeopardize the safety of the city’s residents, institutions and businesses.
Tobben has filed suit and prevailed in the Missouri Supreme Court against the City of St. Louis on three separate occasions on behalf of FRS, and has successfully sued on its behalf in several other cases. Most recently, in 2007, the Supreme Court entered a ruling that resulted in the city being ordered to pay more than $49,000,000 to FRS, because of the city’s underfunding of the system.
About FRS: Established on July 26, 1944 in accordance with Ordinance #43009, the Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis was created to provide a program of security for the welfare of St. Louis City Fire Fighters and their families. On January 1, 1960, the System was revised through enabling legislation by the Missouri Legislature and then by the Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis to further ensures the continued security for all active fire fighters, retirees and their families. The Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis provides retirement, disability, death and survivor benefits to nearly 2000 active and retired participants and their beneficiaries.
FRS supports its membership by maintaining a pension plan that will attract and retain firefighters. It seeks to maximize investment returns by following a prudent investment policy.
About Danna McKitrick P.C.: Located in Clayton, Mo., Danna McKitrick, P.C. delivers legal representation to local and national businesses, insurers, government-related entities, and individuals. The firm is a member of MSI Global Alliance – an international association of more than 250 independent law and accounting firms in 100 countries.
10/7/10 6:00 AM
2010 News Releases, Pension Case News | Comments Off |
St. Louis Firemen’s Retirement System Sues City Over “Illegal” Ordinances