Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Not Getting Answers on Pension

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Not Getting Answers on Pension

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

It's getting to be crunch time on how best to solve the city's police and fire pension crisis.

Nerves are frayed. Tempers are rising.

The city's general counsel, Jason Gabriel, usually an even keel kind of guy, came close to losing it during Tuesday's City Council Finance Committee meeting.

He was clearly irritated that George Gabel, an attorney who represented Times-Union Editor Frank Denton in a successful Sunshine Law challenge to an earlier pension deal but who was speaking as a private citizen, was allowed to testify before the committee.

When Gabel pointed out that the Police and Fire Pension Fund had paid legal fees for a lawsuit filed against the city by the firefighters union and its president, Randy Wyse, the stuff, as they say, hit the fan.

That would mean the city's taxpayers were footing the bill for Wyse and the union to sue the city, Councilman John Crescimbeni complained while asking pointed questions of Gabriel.

"Fog is being thrown up," Gabriel responded, his voice rising. "This is becoming very political ... What is happening here is totally wrong."

That brought this retort from Councilman Bill Gulliford.

"I resent the implication that this is all political," he said. "The taxpayers are getting ripped off. That's the problem."

"If you can't tell I'm angry, I am angry."

That's sort of the way the meeting went.

Finance Chairman Richard Clark expressed frustration that the committee can't get complete answers on what the savings and costs will be under the Brown proposal.

He wondered aloud if that was a purposeful "strategy" on the part of the administration.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer said questions that she had submitted five months ago haven't been answered. She was told it might take weeks more before they are.

"We have to act without information," she said.

And the time to act is running out if the council is going to meet the goal of having an up or down vote by the end of this year. …

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