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City suing to get back pension money paid to former pension chief

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville is going to court to try to force the former head of the Police and Fire Pension Fund, John Keane, to pay back his pension.

“I did nothing wrong. I followed all the rules," Keane told News4jax.

It’s all part of a five-year, very public legal battle between Keane and the city. Keane was one of only three people who qualified for a special pension fund which Mayor Lenny Curry stopped in 2015. Since then, there have been a series of lawsuits back and forth.

Keane was well-known in Jacksonville for two decades. He was with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, then became executive director of the Police and Fire Pension fund, which managed retirement benefits but was notoriously underfunded.

Keane was in the news when the city learned spiraling pension costs could bankrupt the city. Five years ago Keane’s own pension came under fire when it learned that he was part of a special pension program where he could receive $235,000 per year in addition to his current salary, his firefighter’s pension and Social Security.

After much public debate, Curry ended that special pension, which led to lawsuits from both sides. That fight continues, the latest round is from the city lawyers, which have now countersued Keane and demand that he pay back all the pension money he received.

”I was shocked when the city filed a countersuit against me trying to take all my pension benefits from me,” said Keane, who added he served the citizens of Jacksonville for over 50 years.

The amount of money the city is seeking from Keane is not listed in the lawsuit.

“I haven’t even calculated it yet because I don’t know how they can take my pension from me,” Keane said.

In an email, the pension board’s current executive director said it was the city attorney who filed the countersuit, not the board. It said the board does not have a public position on the lawsuit.

Pension board member Michael Lynch said the board did nothing illegal and is suggesting a special meeting held to lay out terms to prohibit city attorneys from responding to the lawsuit without the approval of the board.

Meanwhile, it will be up to a judge to rule on the countersuit and whether or not Keane’s pension payments must be returned to the city. A hearing in the case is slated for later this month.


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