Mehlville fire board asserts new law alarming, unconstitutional

By BURKE WASSON

If public employees aren’t satisfied with their benefits, can they override the decisions of elected officials by seizing that authority themselves? If a man’s signature is as good as his word, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt thinks so.

Blunt recently signed Senate Bill 406, which was approved in May by the Legislature.

But we’re willing to bet many did not know that tacked onto the last page of that 95-page Senate bill was a provision creating a board of trustees in each fire-protection district to administer pension plans. That pension board would include a district’s elected three-member board of directors and two employees.

On its face, a board of three elected officials and two employees looks like it’s in line with the public’s best interest, being that three of the five members are voted on by the public.

But if just one of those three elected officials sides with the two employees, then the balance of spending the public’s money is shifted to private interests. That is why we applaud the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors for voting last week to challenge the constitutionality of this legislation.

And because the district is alleging that a state statute is unconstitutional, it is required that the district also name Attorney General Jay Nixon, thought to be Blunt’s primary rival for the governor’s seat in 2008, as a defendant.

Although his efforts last spring to halt the creation of such pension boards were unsuccessful, we again commend Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, for being the only local state representative who believes the public’s money, in this case, is best handled by their chosen elected officials.

We truly appreciate the work that all firefighters and paramedics risk their lives to do, and our opposition to their inclusion on these pension boards is in no way a criticism of their job performance.

But any system in which employees can override their company’s authority for the sole purpose of enhancing their own benefits is faulty at best and corrupt at its worst.

And when the money for that company comes from the public, in our opinion and undoubtedly that of the Mehlville fire board, it should be unconstitutional.

Being that Blunt and Nixon will both be on the campaign trail soon, now might be a good time for one to gain popularity with area voters and side with the Mehlville fire board by recognizing this atrocity.