Landrieu wants judge to reconsider ruling on pensions - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Landrieu wants judge to reconsider ruling on Firefighters Pension Fund

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New Orleans, La. — Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls a judge's ruling "another major financial hurdle that the city is going to have to deal with."

This week, a March 28 ruling by Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso that bore bad news for City Hall was made public. It orders the city to pay the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund $17.5 million to cover city obligations to their pension fund.

"The firefighters pension system is way out of balance, the organizational structure of it is wrong, the investment practices are wrong and unfortunately they're calling upon the citizens of New Orleans to write a blank check," Landrieu said to members of the media inside his City Hall office.

Landrieu said the city will appeal the ruling if necessary.  "A judge issued a $17 million judgment that in our opinion is wrong, so we're going to ask the judge to reconsider her opinion and if not, we'll appeal that," he said.

In Landrieu's words, the Firefighters Pension Fund is "horribly" underfunded and not well managed.  At his request state lawmakers from New Orleans have bills for the just-opened legislative session to reform the Firefighters Pension Board by reducing the number of board members from 10 to five, increasing local control and having a financial expert from the city.

"It is a perennial problem that we continue to speak a lot about.  Pension systems have to be sustainable. We have a number of other pension systems in the city that are actually well funded that the employees are contributing what they're supposed to," said Landrieu.

Funding the Firefighters Pension Fund has been a long-running headache for city government. And in addition to that, the city is trying to figure out how it could possibly pay for the NOPD and Orleans Parish Prison federal consent decrees at the same time.

"So I continue to send the message clearly out there to whoever will hear that, if they keep imposing these burdens on the city that are not going to be good... so my job is to try to keep us out of those swamps.  We're in the middle of a big one right now," said Landrieu.

In a statement, the New Orleans Firefighters Association said, "While Firefighters are pleased with the court's decision regarding the recent mandamus action, we would like it to jump-start negotiations that failed in mid-July of last year in an effort to resolve this matter favorably for both the City of New Orleans and its firefighters.  We are hopeful that the talks that broke down, prior to us filing this lawsuit, will resume now that the issue has been resolved."

"The firefighters' negotiations with every mayor for the past 20 years have been broken down because it is a gargantuan amount of money laid on top of a system that just does not work," Landrieu said in response.

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