Council President Yarborough supports investigation into Police and Fire Pension Fund

Jacksonville City Council President Clay Yarborough sent a letter on Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott supporting a state investigation into the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund.

In his letter, Yarborough said he stands with state Rep. Janet Adkins, who asked Scott in December for the state’s chief inspector general and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a “review and investigation” of the pension fund.

“The Jacksonville City Council recognizes and appreciates the sacrifice and dedication of all public safety personnel,” Yarborough said. “That withstanding, Representative Adkins prudently identified … that restoration of public confidence in the management of the pensions is imperative. This is in the best interest of taxpayers and employees alike.”

In her letter to Scott, Adkins said recent articles in The Florida Times-Union have created an appearance of “impropriety, raise issues of questionable practices and possible mismanagement of the fire and police pension fund.”

Yarborough said in December that he planned on writing Scott a letter supporting the investigation. Councilman Bill Gulliford has also sent Scott a letter, and councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Bishop has said he plans to do the same.

The city’s attorneys and the pension fund have disagreed in recent years over several issues, including the creation of a special pension plan for senior staff members, including its longtime executive director, John Keane.

Despite city attorneys saying the pension fund lacked the authority to create the special pension plan, the fund’s own attorneys said they disagreed. As of now, Keane’s special pension plan is fully funded and is set to pay him benefits when he retires.

Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, has asked Scott to investigate the special pension plan, as well as determine whether state rules and laws were followed in regard to the creation, management and regulation of Deferred Retirement Option Program accounts.

In October, the Times-Union reported how the pension fund ignored findings by the City Council Auditor’s Office and city lawyers that the pension fund incorrectly applied regulations for participation in DROP. The paper found that three individuals who entered DROP will collectively receive about $1.8 million more than they would have under strict interpretation of the code.

In his letter, Yarborough said that the pension fund’s decision to ignore the city’s legal opinions “continues to foster frustration and confusion, particularly for taxpayers who deserve better treatment by those in decision-making positions who oversee public funds.”

The Governor’s Office is reviewing Adkin’s request and hasn’t announced whether it will open an investigation.