Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Police Union Threatens Gate Boycott

Picture 2The news broke just before lunch—Police Union President Nelson Cuba was announcing his intentions to call for a boycott of Gate Petroleum, the family business owned by Mayor John Peyton’s father, in retaliation of the Mayor’s plan to call for pension reforms and salary freezes.  Nelson accused the mayor of threatening to take away the “basic necessities” police officers have become accustomed to.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30 is one of the most powerful unions in the city and home to over 2,500 officers.  The union has long wielded considerable influence in city elections, including endorsing John Peyton and many of the current members of the city council.  Nelson’s call to members of the union to “send [their] own message and hit the Mayor in his pocket” is therefore not only a monetary threat—it is something designed to discourage any council member from supporting reforms that the union does not agree to.

UNF Political Science Professor Matthew Corrigan told David Hunt of The Florida Times-Union that the move by Nelson could backfire.  Corrigan said that, while the union is well-respected in the city, they risk losing that respect by refusing to share in budget cuts.

The full Times-Union article can be found here.  For breaking news on the Jacksonville political scene, follow us on Twitter.


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Will Pensions Break Jacksonville?

With Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba threatening to sue the City over a pension dispute, it’s probably time the City of Jacksonville got truly serious and faced up to the rather serious spectre of unsustainable pension contributions.  In today’s Florida Times-Union, Ron Littlepage pegs the unfunded liability at over $1 billion.

This isn’t exactly a good time to be talking about sweetening pension plans that could end up bankrupting the city.

Here are the latest figures from the Mayor’s Office on how much the unfunded liability in the city’s three pension plans has increased since the economy tanked.

– The unfunded liability for the Police and Fire Pension Fund jumped from $534 million in September 2007 to $789 million in September 2008.

– For the general employees plan, it increased from $192.5 million to $331 million.

– And for correctional officers, it went from $38.5 million to $55 million.

Add those together and it’s a total unfunded liability of $1.175 billion.

This January 2, 2009 Memo from Alan Mosley, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, is an effort to make members of the City Council aware of the precarious path the City is currently on in relation to the three pension plans.  According to Mosley, current contributions to the Police & Fire Pension Plan—$56.5 million—will have a staggering increase of nearly 180% over the next 20 years.  One doesn’t need to know the minutia of pension plans to understand exactly how that would cripple the budget of the City.   Read the rest of this entry »

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JSO Officers to sue City?

Nelson Cuba, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, has threatened to sue the City of Jacksonville if the City Council fails to pass pension plan legislation favored by the police union. After the City’s Finance Committee voted to defer the legislation, Cuba told the Daily Record he would pull out of contract negotiations and sue, unless the full City Council immediately bowed to his demands.

“I want a yea or a nay Tuesday night. If not, then I’ll sue,” said Cuba. “This is a collective bargaining agreement and the only way for the City to get out of it is to declare bankruptcy. If they cannot pay us, how can they pay any other contracts?”[Daily Record]

The defeat came after Councilmember Stephen Joost demanded to know where the money would come from. Interestingly enough, the City’s General Counsel’s Office—not typically a spokesperson for the City Council—told the Daily Record that the Council would likely vote on the bill, even without the support of the Finance Committee. That response, coming from an unelected official, shows the political power the police union continues to hold in Jacksonville. The story in its entirety can be found here.

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Legal blogs weigh in on Matt Shirk and his FOP party

It seems that locals aren’t the only ones who think the apparent “relationship” between Matt Shirk and the Fraternal Order of Police is a little odd.

The Law of Criminal Defense blog by John Wesley Hall Jr. (the NACDL’s original ethics advisor) had this to say:

When the elected Public Defender getting sworn in has a party thrown for him by the Fraternal Order of Police, something is seriously wrong with the Public Defender’s Office. See Jacksonville.com.

The Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, which supported Shirk in the November election, threw an induction party for him Tuesday night.

While paying lip service to being an adversary, the PD ran for office promising the police that Public Defenders would not question the credibility of police officers.

This will get ugly before it’s over. The systemic problems this creates boggle the mind.

And over at Arbitrary and Capricious (Skelly Wright’s blog), they posted the following:

FL: cops and p.d. sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g

Lest we forget Matt Shirk, another Floridian just elected p.d., John Wesley Hall Jr. at Law of Criminal Defense reminds us:

Jax Public Defender has “induction party” thrown by FOP

When the elected Public Defender getting sworn in has a party thrown for him by the Fraternal Order of Police, something is seriously wrong with the Public Defender’s Office…

Followed by this post a couple of days later that is obviously referencing Shirk …

FL: orderly transition

Odd news out of Sarasota: newly-elected public defender takes office, no employees summarily axed, no police throw a party for the p.d. or search the p.d. premises. From WWSB:

Larry Eger sworn in as Public Defender

For the first time in more than three decades, someone other than Elliot Metcalfe holds the position of 12th Judicial Circuit Public Defender. Republican Larry Eger took his oath of office Friday in Manatee County…

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