Pension board chair, mayor trade barbs over city's pension fix

Mayor's plan to reduce $2.7B deficit includes half-cent sales tax


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fireworks flew Friday morning at a meeting of the Police and Fire Pension Board as members bashed Mayor Lenny Curry's plan to get the city out of a $2.7 billion pension deficit.

The chairman of the board said Curry’s plan to use a half-cent sales tax approved by voters to pay down the debt won't work, and he believes that the plan could put the city in more debt down the line.

Chairman Lt. Richard Tuten, a firefighter, appeared angry over comments from city lawyers, who said input from the board on the contract, which was recently approved by the police and fire unions, is not needed.

READ: Letter from general counsel to pension fund board

Tuten said he needs to hear that from the mayor and his staff, who have been working on the deal.

“Something doesn't smell right,” Tuten said. “If you're confident in something, and if you've got a program to sell, you're not worried about what people think. You're not worried about trying to sell it to people. You should show people what you have and how it's going to benefit the city,  the pension fund and the men and women of this fire department.”

City of Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel said he's not concerned about Tuten's objections or his threats to sue the city.

“I think those are the product of healthy debate, discourse, and I think that happens quite often,” Gabriel said. “And that's OK. I think this board today was looking at it from all angles, including the underbelly of all of this, and that's perfectly fine.”

Curry had his own fiery response to Tuten's comments:

“I’d like to thank four of the five board members who met with our team leading up to today’s meeting and working with us to solve this pension crisis. It’s no surprise that one of the five -- the board chairman Richard Tuten -- a crony left over from the (John) Keane era -- continues to conduct himself with little regard for taxpayers. In fact, Chairman Tuten has been a PFPF board member since 2003. During these times, he was a part of some of the most egregious decisions in the history of the board which involved outrageous payouts of taxpayer dollars.” 

Now that the police and fire unions have approved the contract, it will be up to City Council to sign off on the deal, which will eventually lead to implementing the half-cent tax in the year 2030.

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