A proposed class action lawsuit filed by a former firefighter and the Retired Firefighters Legal Defense Fund, Inc. claims retired firefighters in Hollywood, Florida have been unlawfully robbed of their pension benefits.
A proposed class action lawsuit filed by a former firefighter and the Retired Firefighters Legal Defense Fund, Inc. claims retired firefighters in Hollywood, Florida have been unlawfully robbed of their pension benefits. The case alleges that the defendants – the pension system’s board of trustees and the City of Hollywood – have reduced firefighters’ pension benefits by changing how payments are calculated when, according to the plaintiffs’ counsel, “it is well settled law that once a [pension plan] member reaches normal retirement eligibility, benefits cannot be reduced or eliminated.”
The lawsuit centers on amendments made on or after July 15, 2009, to the retirement plan’s supplemental pension benefit – known as “the 13th check” – that is issued in certain years in addition to regular pension payments. On this date, according to the complaint, the City Commission voted to add a provision that would allow the supplemental pension benefit to be paid only “after such time as the system has recovered any aggregate losses” experienced after October 1, 2008.
The case argues that the 2009 provision, and several other changes made during the following years, does not apply to firefighters who retired or were eligible to retire before July 15, 2009. Among the subsequent amendments, the suit goes on, was a decision to change how pension benefits were calculated, the effect of which was payments that would “eventually start to decline over time.”
According to the lawsuit, plan members who retired before July 15, 2009, and their beneficiaries were robbed of pension payments to which they were contractually entitled and that, by law, cannot be reduced by the defendants’ allegedly self-serving decisions.
“Defendants’ actions are neither reasonable nor necessary to serve an important governmental interest or protect public health, safety and welfare,” the complaint reads. “Rather, the unlawful actions herein described reflect a unilateral decision by Defendants to avoid a contractual obligation they no longer want to honor in favor of spending city resources on more politically popular causes.”