Baltimore’s police and fire unions filed a federal lawsuit against the city Thursday afternoon, alleging officials “knowingly underfunded” their pension plan over the past decade, ignoring the advice of financial experts hired by the city, Baltimore Sun colleague Julie Scharper reports.
The lawsuit marks the beginning of what could be a lengthy and expensive legal battle in the emotionally charged debate on altering retirement benefits paid to public safety officers. If drastic changes are not made to the pension system by July 1, the city will be on the hook for $66 million that it cannot pay.
Union heads, stressing the dangerous and physically-grueling nature of their work, say that pension changes proposed by the city constitute a violation of their contract.
“Some in city government are portraying this as a crisis,” said Bob Sledgeski, firefighters’ union president. “This has been long, ongoing neglect on the part of the city to follow their own experts’ advice. That’s not an accident and ten years does not a crisis make.”
The lawsuit charges that from 2003 to 2008, city financial officials disregarded actuaries’ recommendations to lower an assumed rate of return because it would have forced the city to contribute millions more to the plan.