published Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Police, firefighters battle back against mayor's behind-the-scenes pension efforts

Mayor Andy Berke
Mayor Andy Berke
From: Richardson Stacy
Date: August 2, 2013, 11:09:27 EDT
Subject: Statement Regarding Pension
Please feel free to call me with any questions.
Looking forward to hearing your feedback.

Best wishes,
Stacy

Stacy Richardson
Office of Mayor Andy Berke

Dear Mayor Berke,
Firstly, we would like to offer congratulations on presenting your first budget on Wednesday. Clearly, you understand the critical role that public safety plays in our community. There are several key points from the budget that we believe represent your support of our sworn officers: the inclusion of all sworn personnel in the across the board pay raise, the updated technology for fire apparatus, and the increase in manpower for the police force.

We would also like to express our desire for the City to maintain its current budgeted level of funding for the Fire and Police Pension Fund despite the statement from Pension Board that it be funded at $13.1 million. We believe it would be irresponsible for the City to decrease its contribution to the fund and are disappointed by the actions of the Pension Board.

We are committed to working with you, your administration, the Pension Board, our membership, and the Task Force to determine the best path forward for Chattanooga’s first responders. Thus far, your administration has demonstrated a willingness to work together and we look forward to participating in the process to find the best possible solution for our members.

Sincerely,
Letter from Mayor Berke's office

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s office sent emails to police and firefighter unions asking the members to sign a letter the mayor’s office had penned in support of the mayor’s task force to study the pension and to criticize their local pension board.

Chattanooga Firefighters Association President Jack Thompson said after talking with the mayor’s staff, he received the email from Senior Advisor Stacy Richardson and then got a call demanding the union send the support letter back 30 minutes later.

“It’s definitely a concern that they're going to ask us to sign something of that nature,” Thompson said. “We’re in complete support of the pension board.”

The letter first congratulates the mayor for presenting his first budget and then states the union is critical of the Police and Fire Pension Board.

“Clearly, you understand the critical role that public safety plays in our community,” the letter sent from the Mayor’s office states. “We believe it would be irresponsible for the City to decrease its contribution to the fund and are disappointed by the actions of the Pension Board.”

Berke’s spokeswoman Lacie Stone said the letter was sent after talking with several local firefighter and police unions that expressed interest in supporting the mayor’s task force.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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