Retired Louisville Firefighters Discuss City’s Attempt to Make Interest Payment on Pension Dispute

The attorney for retired Louisville firefighters seeking an interest payment from a pension dispute settlement says her clients largely agree that they won’t accept a check from the city.

Last month, the city attempted to deliver an $8-million check to the firefighters’ attorney, Ann Oldfather. She declined, and the city ended up giving the check to Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mary Shaw, who presides over the pension case.

Oldfather briefed her clients Tuesday on their options.

Oldfather says the city was trying to get end the accruing interest on the money, which itself is interest on back pension benefits to the retired firefighters.

At the same time, the city is appealing the ruling that required the payment—and Oldfather says the city could ask for the money back if the appeal goes their way.

“The city has decided to take a course of ‘let’s play pretend,” Oldfather said. “‘Let’s put our hand behind our back, cross our fingers and say here’s your money, it’s unconditional and by the way, if we happen to be successful on the appeal’—not that I think that’s very likely, but it could happen—‘we’re going to come to you and say we want every penny back, plus interest.’”

She says the retired firefighters wouldn’t be able to freely spend the money.

Michael Hasken, a retired Louisville firefighter and plaintiff in the case, said he’s owed about $100,000, but he’s not interested in taking the money just yet. He takes issue with the city’s characterization that the money is “unconditional.” 

“It just becomes a real can of worms,”  Hasken said. ”I think the same thing for anybody to do here is leave the money, keep the pressure on the city.”

Oldfather says the retired firefighters would accept the payment if the city drops its appeal. Until then, she argues that the payment should continue accruing about $1-million per year until the matter is finally resolved.

She says the retired firefighters could likely go to the Jefferson Circuit Court and accept the money now handed over by the city—but they largely agree that it’s a bad idea.

“They want to put ‘done’ at the end of this litigation,” she said of her clients. “The city, unlike every other creditor, is not paying a check in order to say ‘done.’ They’re paying a check in order to say, ‘We don’t want to pay you any more interest.’ Well, it doesn’t work like that.”

A Louisville Metro spokesman did not immediately respond to questions posted about the payment dispute. We’ll update here when we hear back.

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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