Scranton’s police and fire pension boards again voted to approve raises for retirees in 2017, despite an ongoing court battle that challenges whether the money must be paid.
The recent action came as a judge prepares to hear arguments relating to a 2015 lawsuit the police and fire unions filed that challenges the city’s 2014 directive to withhold raises until the pension funds are financially sound.
Under the fire and police union contracts, active employees will receive a 1.75 percent raise on Jan. 1. Retirees are entitled to half that amount, or 0.875 percent.
The vote marks the third consecutive year board members approved the retiree raises. The retirees have not received the increases, however, because the city directed the plans’ administrator, Thomas J. Anderson & Associates, not to pay them.
Scranton officials maintain city code forbids any increases for retirees if the pension funds, which remain severely financially distressed, are not sound. The unions’ lawsuit contends the city had no authority to issue the directive because administration of the pension funds lies with the pension board, not the city.
Senior Lackawanna County Judge Robert Mazzoni was set to hear arguments on the case Tuesday, but the hearing was postponed until Dec. 9. Larry Durkin, pension board solicitor, said he does not expect Judge Mazzoni to rule on the matter until next year.
Mr. Durkin also said he is awaiting a decision from two hearing examiners regarding the nonuniform pension board’s attempt to halt double pensions awarded to certain retirees in 2002 and 2007. The examiners heard the cases earlier this year and are now reviewing records. It is not known when they will rule.
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