published Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Retired Chattanooga police officers, firefighters sue over pension changes

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Photo by Jake Daniels.
Lawsuit against City and Pension Fund
Lawsuit against City and Pension Fund

Two retired Chattanooga police officers and two retired Chattanooga firefighters filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Chancery Court against the Chattanooga and Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund after changes to pension benefits eliminated annual 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retired public safety employees.

“There are numerous other retired policemen and firefighters from the city of Chattanooga who will also be adversely affected by actions undertaken by the defendant which reduce the retirees' vested pension benefits that had previously been guaranteed to them by the city of Chattanooga,” the eight-page complaint filed by attorney, Michael Richardson, states.

Last week, a number of public safety retirees pitched in money to retain Richardson and file the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that the city and pension fund are breaking state and federal laws by changing the cost-of-living increases.

The group is seeking a judge's ruling on the matter, a permanent injunction to prevent any future changes to the cost-of-living annual increases and any attorney's fees or expenses.

The cost-of-living increase was adopted by the Chattanooga City Council in 2000, the complaint states.

In its Weekly Credit Outlook for Public Finance, Moody’s Investors Service last week gave a "credit positive" for the reforms that are expected to save the city $227 million over the next 25 years.

Moody’s noted the city may face legal challenges to the reforms, “in part because Tennessee law prohibits changes to vested accrued benefits.” However, the city’s pension fund attorneys counter that state courts “have never established [cost-of-living adjustments] as vested financial benefits,” the report states.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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