The City of St. Louis has begun hurry up meetings of its newly created fire fighters pension board without having the required two fire fighters and one retired fire fighter even selected.
The current Firemen’s Retirement System (FRS) meanwhile last week filed for a stay and injunction to prevent implementation of the City’s new plan while their appeal works its way through the legal system challenging Judge Robert Dierker Jr.’s ruling two weeks ago that the City could freeze the current pension plan and implement a new one. A July 3 hearing is scheduled on the FRS’s request.
The new Firemen’s Retirement Plan (FRP) board of trustees held it second meeting this past Monday and was scheduled to, among other things, take actions to create a new, and lower, pension schedule of benefits and hire staff and legal counsel.
“To conduct business without all the trustees … (is) very unprofessional. To consider items of any significance or the hiring of staff or services before a full Board is present and before a ruling (on the appeal) borders on malfeasance,” said retired fire fighter Bruce Williams, a trustee on the current plan’s board.
The new seven member board is to have seven members: two appointed by the mayor, the budget director, comptroller, two active fire fighters and one retired fire fighter pensioner.
However, the fire fighter representatives have not yet been selected. The City notified fire fighters by email that they had seven days (June 12-19) to file for one of the two positions. Voting is scheduled for June 27-28.
“Due to firefighters normal schedules and days off for vacations it is conceivable that upwards of 80 firefighters may not have seen the notice,” Williams said. The notice required that an applicant had to go to City Hall to file.
“For the new system to proceed with any items other than the procedures for holding elections to fill the fire fighter and retired fire fighter slots is simply premature,” he added.
That same sentiment was expressed by Fire Fighters Local 73 President Demetris “Al” Alfred: “It’s clear the entire administrative process for the fire fighter election was not well thought out… haphazard at best, intentionally unclear and sloppy at worst.”
He added: “It seems very strange they would move forward without a fully constituted board. What’s the rush given the matter is in the courts and will probably have to go all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court before it’s finished?”
Alfred also noted that the City is also prohibiting any fire fighter now serving on the current pension board from running and serving on the new board. “That means all the experience on complex pension issues of the current trustees who might want to be on the new board will be lost. I have to question whether or not this is intentional to put the fire fighter trustees at a distinct disadvantage?” he questioned.
And as if to make it even more intimidating to a working fire fighter, the following is included as part of the explanation of what is expected from a trustee:
Under the heading, “Risks Associated With Being A Trustee,” it cites the “Potential for lawsuits, exposure of personal assets, time expended as a trustee is not compensable.”
Interestingly, a little noted fact is that the City in its original proposal to change the pension system said in its power point presentation that local control was the solution to the pension dilemma and that “A board with a majority of firefighters would continue to control and protect the pension assets.”
In that same presentation, under “governance” the City said there would be eight on the new board, three active fire fighters, one retired firefighters, the fire chief, two members appointed by the mayor and one by the Comptroller.”