HOUSTON – The Houston Fire Department is facing a big battle, but this fire will have to be put out in court.
The City of Houston filed a lawsuit against the department’s relief and retirement fund. City officials say HFD is abusing retirement pensions.
“It is true that the firefighter pension is the best funded pension. It is untrue to say it is the healthiest pension,” said Mayor Annise Parker.
The biggest problem, according to Mayor Parker, is the city has to give the department money out of its general fund but has no control over how much.
“There’s something wrong with the system where the person who pays the bills has no access to the information on those bills that they’re paying,” said Mayor Parker.
What we do know is firefighters retiring with 30 years of service get 94% of their pre-retirement salary, plus a huge lump sum. Those are all figured controlled by current and retired firefighters. City officials say that is a huge conflict of interest.
HFD, of course, sees no problem with its ways and sees the lawsuit as “nothing more than a power-grab and publicity stunt.”
“The bottom line is the mayor has a problem paying into this fund because she wants to use that extra money for basically to fund her little special pet projects. You know, and this is trust system, the firefighters pay in it their whole career, and they are promised a benefit when they retire, and the bottom line is when they retire they deserve that well-earned benefit,” said Todd Clark, Chairmen of the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund.
Texas laws have protected the way the pension plan works since 1937. But long-standing laws have been changed before.
“This administration and this mayor in particular have a long track record of wasting taxpayer money. This lawsuit is a terrible waste of taxpayer’s money,” said Clark.
Let’s hope this works out for everyone. Things tend to get ugly when politics and money are involved.