Ruling expected soon on Dallas pension fund lawsuit

An important ruling is expected on Friday about the future of the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Five current and retired public safety employees sued the pension board and claimed it does not have legal status to make changes to the fund.

Plaintiffs say the pension board is operating illegally by having more board members than the state allows. The pension board says the suit is a bogus stall tactic that jeopardizes pension benefits for thousands of Dallas police and firefighters.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the pension system has violated state law over the last two decades by increasing the number of trustees from 7 to 12.  The plaintiffs, like many others vested in the pension, don't want their benefits cut.

It was all headed to a vote by the membership before Judge Ken Molberg stopped the election to hear the lawsuit. The ballot would have allowed members to consider cutting benefits and increasing contributions to help make the $2.5 billion fund more secure.

Pension attorneys claim the suit is baseless and disruptive. They say delaying the vote is projected to cost pensioners $3.3 million a month.

"The pension system's position today is simply this: five individuals should not be able to stop 5,000 police and firefighters from voting in a democratic election,” Attorney Josh Turner said. “And that is especially true when the basis for attempting to stop them is an alleged defect in the composition of the pension system's board that has been present for 20 years and has not been raised until now."

"The court has put its finger squarely on the point today which is whether or not this is a duly constituted board of trustees and whether it had the authority to put forward the vote,” Attorney Chris Ayres said.

Plaintiff attorneys called the pension fund's general counsel as its first witness, then the executive administrator of the fund neither of whom were a part of the pension system when the board voted to increase the number of trustees.                     

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has said he is trying to work on a plan to help the fund, which he says will have to start selling assets within the next 90 days if something isn't done soon to shore up the insolvent pension fund. 

Molberg says he will take everything under advisement and have a decision by Friday afternoon.     

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