Time for MFPD Local 1889 to start working with board

By MIKE ANTHONY

With another court ruling against them, we believe it’s time members of Local 1889 of the International Associ-ation of Fire Fighters start working with the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

As reported on Page 1A today, union employees’ request for a permanent injunction prohibiting the board from changing the district’s pension plan to a defined-contribution plan from a defined-benefit plan was denied last week by St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Thea A. Sherry.

We believe the ruling on the lawsuit filed in March 2006 is a devastating one for the union. Perhaps board Chairman Aaron Hilmer said it best.

“I don’t think that we could have written the order any better than Judge Sherry did,” he told the Call.

Last week’s ruling comes just a few months after the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear an earlier lawsuit Local 1889 had filed against the board. A circuit judge had ruled against the union and that decision was upheld at the appellate level. The state Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case was the end of the road for a lawsuit filed nearly two years earlier in which the union had sought to prohibit the board from implementing a disability-benefit contract with Standard Insurance.

In her decision last week, Judge Sherry ruled, “The court is not persuaded that there was credible evidence that the directors breached their fiduciary duty by modifying the retirement/pension plan under the facts presented to the court.”

It’s no secret the district’s existing defined-benefit plan currently has an unfunded actuarial accrued liability of more than $5.8 million. In fact, Judge Sherry wrote, “There was credible evidence that there had been a consistent infusion of general-revenue funds to maintain the pension plan at its proper level of funding.”

In voting to change the pension plan, the board said the district would contribute a percentage of an employee’s total compensation to the defined-contribution plan based on years of service. Employees with less than 15 years of service would receive 8 percent; 15 to 19 years, 9 percent; 20 to 24 years, 10 percent; and 25 or more years, 11 percent.

Good luck in trying to find a private-sector pension plan offering those percentages.

We would encourage Local 1889 not to appeal Judge Sherry’s ruling and negotiate with the board in an ef-fort to sweeten the percentages of an already-sweet retirement deal.