Pension board wants Supreme Court to overturn Government in Sunshine decision

The Police and Fire Pension Fund is asking the Florida Supreme Court to overturn a Government in the Sunshine ruling that found the pension fund engaged in collective bargaining and therefore must conduct such sessions in public.

The First District Court of Appeal previously upheld a ruling by Circuit Court Judge Waddell Wallace in a lawsuit filed by Times-Union Editor Frank Denton.

Denton argued that Police and Fire Pension Fund has acted as an agent of police and firefighter unions and therefore public meeting requirements for collective bargaining sessions applied to the pension fund when it met with city administrators in 2013 to negotiate pension benefits.

The Police and Fire Pension Fund counters it isn’t an agent of the unions and does not engage in collective bargaining.

The pension fund’s legal brief, filed last week, argues that other appeals court decisions around Florida have repeatedly ruled the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission is the designated body for deciding collective bargaining questions, rather than a circuit court judge.

The First District Court of Appeal’s opinion said Waddell’s finding about collective bargaining was a “threshold” determination for whether the Sunshine Law applied.

“Our position is the District Court of Appeal was correct in saying that the circuit judge has the power to decide the threshold question of whether there’s collective bargaining to apply the Sunshine statute,” said George Gabel, who is Denton’s attorney.

David Bauerlein: (904) 359-4581

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2015-01-13/story/pension-board-wants-supreme-court-overturn-government-sunshine-decision