We knew this was coming.
The city of Houston sued the firefighters pension board in state District Court on Wednesday in an effort to pry open the retirement system’s books for a look at supporting data behind the $61 million annual bill it sends to City Hall.
“We need access to this very basic information if we are to be able to protect taxpayers who foot the bills and the employees who deserve fair, financially secure retirements,” Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement released by her office. “I do not want a situation where we must choose between vital city services and paying retirement benefits. We have to be able to accurately plan for the future. It is a critical piece in our long-term budget process. Since our repeated requests for the information have been turned down, we are left with no alternative other than relief in the court system.”
You can see a copy of the lawsuit here. As the story notes, Mayor Parker spoke of this back in February. The story at the time said “the city wants information on beneficiaries of a deferred option retirement program, in which employees eligible for retirement continue working and start an account credited with the amount of pension payouts he or she would have received plus interest” and that they believe “some DROP beneficiaries’ pension benefits exceed their salaries through the program”. Todd Clark, the chair of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund, wrote an op-ed in March claiming that the city already had the information it said it was seeking; it also made vague allegations about “wasteful” spending that didn’t impress me. Both sides can’t be right about what information the city actually has. We’ll see how the court sorts it out.