The Omaha police union has told the city that it may sue to split the police and fire pension fund into two separate systems in the wake of an impasse over a labor agreement with the city's fire union.
Attorneys for the Omaha Police Officers' Association sent a letter to Mayor Jim Suttle Thursday, saying police officers would not take responsibility for the pension fund shortfall.
Late Friday morning, Suttle announced that he was sending the original fire contract — with its pension-fixing provisions — back before the City Council.
"We have a contract that may not meet everyone's expectations, but goes a long way towards pension reform, has a good chance of enabling us to keep our AAA bond rating, saves millions of dollars for taxpayers every year and keeps us farther away from tax increases," Suttle said. "The political posturing needs to stop."
Council members voted 5-2 last week to amend the fire contract to shorten the term and make health care changes. But then the council failed to pass the contract it had just amended, leaving the deal in limbo.
Fire union officials then filed a complaint with the state labor court, accusing the five council members who amended the deal of unfair labor negotiating tactics.
The Mayor's Office said this week that the fire union would not reopen negotiations on the contract and still supports the original deal.
Council member Ben Gray, who supports Suttle's original deal, said the council needs to approve the contract.
"I am not willing to play Russian roulette with taxpayer dollars," he said.
Suttle's reintroduction of the fire agreement essentially restarts the clock for the City Council's approval process.
The contract will be on the council's Tuesday agenda. A new public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13, and the council will re-vote on the deal Sept. 20.
"I am asking them to reconsider their decision to do nothing," Suttle said of the council. "I am giving them a second chance to think seriously about the consequences of leaving this contract, that includes many but not all of their requests, in limbo."
Efforts to reform the pension fund for police and firefighters accelerated in 2010 when the city ratified a four-year contract with police. The contract increased contributions into the fund from both the city and police officers. It also raised the retirement age for new and mid-career officers and made other changes to pension benefits.
An outside actuarial firm said the police deal improved the pension system's prospects and said that if the fire union were to accept a similar deal, the system would become fully funded in about 45 years.
The police union's attorneys said the overall status of combined police and fire pension system "remains dire."
"(The police union) is faced with the prospect that the hard work and difficult compromises that resulted in these pension reforms will be negated," the attorneys wrote.
The police union "must insist that Omaha police officers bear no responsibility for this shortfall," according to the letter signed by attorneys Terry Mumford and Wayne Adams III. Police union members should not be "responsible for contributions for, or payments of firefighter benefits," they wrote.
Contact the writer: