DALLAS - There are 9,000 current and former Dallas public safety employees who count on their pension. Most of them have strong opinions about Mayor Mike Rawlings getting personally involved in the fight to save the fund.
At a ruling on Thursday, the court decided Rawlings, as a citizen, could be a part of the checks and balances as the city, state, pension board and members try to save the pension system. But all the legal wrangling and uncertainty is still unsettling for pensioners caught in the middle.
"The only way that there can ever be a solution to this is to save as much of that fund so that it can be used however the final authority on this sees fit,” said Mike Gruber, Rawlings’ attorney.
Acting as a citizen, the ruling says the mayor has the right to use the courts to keep the pension board in check.
The timing is crucial, with an upcoming pension board vote on distributions from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan or DROP.
Dallas Pension Fund Executive Director Kelly Gottschalk estimates those payouts could be between $100-280 million, roughly 15 percent of the entire DROP account.
"On March 9, the board, according to their policy, will consider if they feel like their excess liquidity to pay out DROP funds,” Gottschalk said.
If the board approves the payouts, Rawlings' attorney says they will seek a court order to freeze the pension's assets. The mayor's critics say he's only making things worse.
"Mike Rawlings is the one by screaming fire and bankruptcy created the financial panic and duress on the members which caused them to want to take their money out,” said Dallas Police Retired Officers Association President Pete Bailey.
He believes another threat of a lawsuit is keeping pensioners from their money just creates a difficult and unsettling time for retiree's, their families and active police and firefighters.