Pension of pension fund's boss being challenged

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man who has run the Police and Fire Pension Fund for more than 25 years is about to retire and is set to collect $227,000 in his first year of retirement. But that pension -- a special fund set up just for John Keane and two others -- is controversial.

Jacksonville's City Council voted 18-to-1 Monday night to authorize the mayor and city's lawyers to challenge that pension deal in court.

Keane, who took the job as executive director of the pension fund after a career as a firefighter, said the pension board set up his pension plan and he's done nothing wrong.

"I think it's a ripoff to the taxpayers, and I think it's a slap in the face to police and firefighters," said Councilman John Crescimbeni.

Keane said he's not surprised by the council's move.

"They have been beating this drum for a period of time," Keane said. "No, it's not surprising."

The legal issue stems about from the creation of the retirement plan set up for Keane, his assistant and a secretary at the pension fund office. It was created in 2000 without City Council's awareness, and city officials didn't learn about it until 2012.

Keane said he tried to join the city's general employees pension fund when he became pension director and was told he could not, so the pension fund was set up. Keane will also receive the pension for which he is eligible as a Jacksonville firefighter.

"Yes sir. I paid into pension fund. I followed all the rules," Keane said. "I did not create (the) fund, the board did. The city would not let me in the general employees' pension fund. The revisionists are now going back and saying, 'He should have been in the fund.' They closed and locked the door and kept me on the outside. They would not let me in."

Some council members don't like the whole concept of a special pension fund; others are just surprised at the amount of money Keane will receive. To add to the council's and public's outrage, it just came to light that Keane cashed in 385 vacation days he has accumulated since 2011 and received a check of over $400,000.

"I want fairness here," said Councilman Bill Gulliford. "I want Mr. Keane to be properly compensated and his wife, according to pension benefits, for the rest of his life. That's fine. But the thing that angers everybody out in the community is the excessiveness of it."

Gulliford would like to work out a settlement before the matter goes to court. He also wants to make sure it does not happen again and has introduced legislation to see to that.

News4Jax contacted the mayor and general counsel for comment, but have not received replies.

Keane is set to retire next Wednesday after attending one more meeting of the Police and Fire Pension Board. He said he has no regrets.

"I am going to go off and enjoy a, hopefully, a long retirement and do some things I have postponed many years," Keane said.

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