JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry on Thursday ordered the city to stop paying retired Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane a controversial pension created for him and two other pension fund employees.
Based on an April 20, 2016, opinion by city General Counsel Jason Gabriel that found the pension was unauthorized and "unlawfully funded" and it was within his authority to cancel it, Curry wrote in an email to his senior staff:
"Per discussions w/Jason and his most recent legal opinion/summary on Keane, City of Jax PFPF, please coordinate efforts to handle this matter immediately. STOP the unauthorized (Senior Voluntary Retirement Plan) payouts and it its place issue (General Employee Pension Plan) equivalent equitable retirement benefit."
Jacksonville City Council filed a lawsuit against Keane and the Pension Fund board seeking to halt the pension payments and recover contributions made since he retired last September. In his executive action, Curry ordered the lawsuit to be dropped.
Under the special pension, Keane would have been paid $227,000 in his first year of retirement. News4Jax was told that replacing the senior staff pension with the general-employee pension payments will cost Keane about $46,000 per year.
"Some citizens may have a problem with this settlement. Some citizens may think that in the case of Mr. Keane, his pension benefit is going to be excessive. But if he had been part of the general-employee pension plan, he was going to get a large benefit because of years of service, times earnings. And the board was paying him $300,000 a year, but I think some citizens are still going to have a problem with that," City Councilman John Crescimbeni told News4Jax.
Crescimbeni said he thinks the fund was created illegally.
"If I had a magic wand, I'd say they're not entitled to anything, but I don't think that's an equitable solution. I don't think the court would ever go along with that," Crescimbeni said.
Keane told News4Jax that his attorneys have advised him not to speak on the matter, but he will talk to News4Jax after the matter is settled.