Tobben: Changes Helping Under-funded Joplin Pension on “Watch” List

By admin

The Joplin Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund is becoming more financially stable, according to the Joplin Globe.

But it has not improved enough to escape being named one of the 15 public pension funds to watch due to a low funding ratio (the “percentage of future retirement payments that can be made with the value of the fund’s current investments”) or a low percentage of employer contributions by Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich. After completing a study of 89 public pension funds in Missouri (based on information from 2011), Schweich determined the Joplin fund is one of the most financially troubled in the state.

The Joplin Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund hired Attorney Dan Tobben (retired) in 2008 to assist in talks with the city regarding underfunding of the pension. An agreement was reached between the city and the fund.

According to Tobben,

“…those talks [in 2008] resulted in agreements to make some lump-sum payments into the fund, pay in annual contributions at the rate recommended by the fund’s actuary, and an increase in retirement eligibility from 20 years of service to 25 years for those hired after Jan. 1, 2009.”

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Tobben Argues Before Missouri Court of Appeals in St. Louis Firefighters’ Pension Case

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Attorney Dan Tobben (retired), representing Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis (FRS), argued before the Missouri Court of Appeals against the City of St. Louis and its attempts to replace the pension plan with the City’s new pension plan for firefighters.

A lower court ruling in 2013 found that the City could change the plan, with stipulations. Tobben and the FRS maintain that City of St. Louis did not have the right to make changes under Missouri state law and based on both the Missouri and the U.S. constitutions. Continue reading »

Tobben to Defend Firefighter Disability Benefits Ruling in Robertson Appeal in Missouri Southern District

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The Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District in Springfield will hear the appeal of  Tom Robertson vs. the Police and Fireman’s Pension fund, et al. on January 9 at 9:00 a.m.

In the original decision in October 2012, Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Mouton ruled in favor of Robertson and three younger firefighters who represented the active-duty firefighter members of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2618. Judge Mouton agreed that the city was not calculating Robertson’s disability benefits at a rate of 50 percent of wages according to the language of the plan.

The pension board appealed on the grounds that the amount should be reduced based on “years of service” less than 20 years. Such a position would be especially harmful to younger firefighters without many years on the job if they become disabled.

Attorney Dan Tobben (retired) represented Robertson and the local IAFF in the appeal.

Respondents Brief for Robertson

Firemen’s Retirement System Sues City of St. Louis on Pension Ordinance Passed in December

By admin

On January 2, 2013,  the Firemen’s Retirement System of St Louis (FRS) and its trustees filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis regarding its recently-passed pension ordinance, Board Bill 109 – which is now known as Ordinance 69353.

According to the press release from FRS:

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction during litigation to prevent the amendment of [the] city ordinance [affecting] … the existing pension plan, as well as to order the parties to continue to operate under the existing FRS plan during this litigation.

In addition, the lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment that Board Bill 109 is illegal, unconstitutional, and that it fails to correct the multiple flaws pointed out by Judge Robert Dierker when he issued an injunction against enforcement of Board Bill 12.

Read the official press release.


Less than one day after FRS filed its lawsuit against the City of St. Louis and its most recent ordinance involving the firefighters’ pension plan, Judge Robert Dierker issued an injunction against  the City, prohibiting the City from proceeding with Ordinance 68353. He also consolidated this latest lawsuit into the existing litigation involving two other city ordinances relating to the same issue. Read the official press release from FRS.


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Tobben Responds to City of St. Louis’ Attempts to Amend Its Pension Bill

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Dan Tobben (retired) with Danna McKitrick and attorney for the Firemen’s Retirement System, commented in the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune on changes the City of St. Louis made to its firefighters’ pension bill after a circuit court judge for the City of St. Louis issued an injunction against the City from implementing the original bill.

According to the Labor Tribune,

FRS attorney Dan Tobben noted there will be appeals regarding the “local control” issue, the rights of firefighters with less than 20 years of service, and for other legal and constitutional reasons as well, even if the new board bill passed out of committee last week is approved by the full Board of Aldermen.

The amended bill concedes many, but not all, of the issues being argued by FRS. Continue reading »

Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction and Restraining Order Against City of St. Louis in Firemen’s Retirement System Case

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A St. Louis judge has entered a preliminary injunction against the City of St. Louis in all matters relating to Board Bill 12. Board Bill 12 (Ordinance 69245 of the City of St. Louis) was passed by the Board of Aldermen and signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay to allegedly reform the firefighters’ pension plan. The Firemen’s Retirement System litigated this case because it strongly believes the City of St. Louis did not have the right to make the proposed changes under Missouri state law and based on both the Missouri and the U.S. constitutions.


Added 10/9/12:


For additional information on the issues related to firefighters’ pension reform, including the pleadings, click here.

Judge Rules St. Louis Firefighters Can Sue to Stop Pension Reform by the City

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A St. Louis judge has ruled that the Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis can sue the City of St. Louis to stop reform of the pension. The Board of Aldermen for the City of St. Louis has passed ordinances to reform the pension. Firefighters believe that the city does not have the legal right to make changes to the pension system under Missouri state law.



For additional information on the issues related to firefighters’ pension reform, including the pleadings, click here.

FRS Sues City of St. Louis Over “Unconstitutional” Ordinances

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On June 12, 2012, the Firemen’s Retirement System of St Louis and its trustees sued the City of St. Louis over “unconstitutional” ordinances. Read the official press release.



Pension Underfunding Contributes To Illinois Credit Downgrade

Jeffrey R. Schmitt

By Jeffrey R. Schmitt

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Moody’s Credit Agency has downgraded the State of Illinois’ credit rating to A2. According to the Post-Dispatch, this is the lowest mark Moody has given to any state, and, in part, the state’s severe pension underfunding has contributed to this credit problem.

The impetus of the story is new legislation passed by the Illinois legislature which outlaws “double dipping” by union officials. The article reports that union officials allegedly misused the pension system to secure large public pensions based upon short teaching stints and even substitute teaching for as little as a single day. Certainly this kind of abuse, if true, is, or should have been, discouraged by all the players involved, including both the state and the public pension plan trustees.

As highlighted by the rest of the article, Illinois continues to face a significant fiscal and budgetary problem, due to many factors, including public pension liabilities. The author notes that the crisis currently amounts to an $83 billion funding shortfall, resulting in the worst unfunded pension liability in the nation, with only 43% of the long-term pension obligations currently funded. Part of the fault certainly lies with the State of Illinois for its failure to fund in earlier, more prosperous times. If uncorrected, this funding shortfall will continue to cause headaches for Illinois lawmakers and public pension plans alike. Ultimately, if not corrected, the continuing trend could possibly cause personal financial losses to deserving retirees across the state.

While unions and public pension plan officials urge the state to fully fund the pension liabilities, lawmakers continue to evaluate plans for both the temporary and permanent fix to the state’s pension woes. Employees and retirees will be keeping a close eye on these legislative developments, and some options may threaten continued benefits for future and/or existing employees.

As the author of the article correctly points out, any attempt by the Illinois legislature to modify the retirement benefits of existing employees entitled to those pensions will almost certainly raise serious legal and constitutional questions that the Illinois, or perhaps even Federal courts, will ultimately decide.

Posted by Attorney Jeffrey R. Schmitt. Schmitt practices in commercial litigation including banking, real estate, construction, and other matters for individuals and businesses.

Pension Wars: IAFF Responds Back

By admin

There is a lot of distortion going on these days regarding public pensions. A recent You-Tube video captured this well, especially as regards the current battle in Wisconsin and the ongoing disputes in New Jersey (two places with very different situations–Wisconsin’s plans are actually rather well funded for state employees).

Seeing the effects the smear campaign is having on the general public, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has responded back and has begun an ad campaign to educate people about the truths and myths of public safety pensions. Harold Schaitberger, president of the IAFF, made a lot of important points in his interview featured on the video and it is worth listening to.

After watching this video, I turned on the local St. Louis news to find a story about a 20+ car pile-up on a local highway. The news crew reported that the St. Louis City firefighters rushed to the scene, rescued over twenty people from their cars, and handled the catastrophe quickly and efficiently. After seeing both of these items, it makes me think that people should not rush to judgment regarding public safety pensions until they know all of the facts. The level of the rhetoric in St. Louis hasn’t reached the level in the two previously mentioned states, but the City’s distortions have been there for quite awhile. Add in the fact that the police have to go on the streets of America’s highest crime city, and it makes you wonder ‘what are these City officials thinking or are they thinking at all.