Federal judge dismisses Dallas pension fund lawsuit

A court ruling this week affects the future of 10,000 current and former Dallas police and firefighters.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit over access to money in their pension fund. But the case involving six retired officers is not over yet.

While retired Dallas Fire Lieutenant Joel Lavender was not a party in the lawsuit, he watched it hopefully.

"The bottom line is we wanted access," he said. "Kids going to college. Children getting married."

The lawsuit followed the pension board meeting on Dec. 8, 2016, to keep the fund from running out of money. The pension board voted to close the gate on access to retirees’ funds.

“That was probably one of the hardest days I've had at the pension system,” said Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director Kelly Gottschalk. “It was a very difficult decision. And I felt terrible for the retirees. I wouldn't want that to happen to me. But I just had to focus on the big picture, trying to do what was right for everybody.”

The six retired police officers who sued the fund were hoping to have access to their money restored.

But this week, a judge ruled that the restrictions on the funds are legal because retirees will be paid the amount they earned, even if it is over the course of 30 years.

"I'm on an allowance as a retiree of the city of Dallas,” Lavender said. “That's ridiculous. I have to be on an allowance for the rest of my life."

Gottschalk says while she understands the frustrations, the ruling protects the fund for everyone.

“The goal is to make sure everyone gets their pension for their entire lives,” she said. “To do that, we had to take these drastic actions."

The plaintiffs have 30 days to decide if they will appeal.

There is also a second lawsuit over interest rates being lowered. That case is in the state supreme court.

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