Kenner Faces Hefty Payments To Firefighter's Pension System

KENNER, LA (AP) — A decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court will cost Kenner's government hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

         The New Orleans Advocate’s Ramon Antonio Vargas reports the court this week ordered the city to factor in incentive pay, holiday pay and similar compensation when calculating pension contributions for firefighters.

         The Supreme Court's decision upheld a ruling last year by a state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal panel. That ruling reversed a Jefferson Parish judge's decision to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed in 2010 by a group of firefighters who said they were owed more in pension contributions than Kenner was paying them.

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         The seeds for the dispute were planted in 1999, when Kenner merged its municipal firefighters' retirement system with the statewide system.

         Before then, Kenner based its pension contributions for its firefighters on their basic salary plus supplemental payments the state mandates for full-time employees. After the switch, Kenner didn't modify the way it calculated the contributions.

         The Supreme Court on Wednesday said forcing the city to consider educational, seniority, holiday and acting pay presented "no genuine issues of material fact," and it affirmed the appellate panel's ruling. Justice Jefferson Hughes dissented in part, saying neither educational nor seniority incentive pay should matter when it comes to pension contributions.

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         The firefighters' attorney, Louis Robein, praised the high court's ruling, saying it was "extremely meticulous in analyzing the facts and very strong in its application of pension laws affecting all public employees."

         It is unclear exactly how much the decision will cost the city. How much each of the 90 or so plaintiffs will get in adjusted pension contributions depends on numerous variables, said Kenner's attorney in the case, Alvin Bordelon.

         Nonetheless, Robein said the $832,000 figure cited by the city earlier in the case was "a good baseline."

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