Miami Beach pension reductions face legal problems

MIAMI BEACH, FL – Millions of dollars in pension savings for the city of Miami Beach were further delayed and jeopardized this week after the city lost decisions in two key legal battles over its police union contract and pension reform proposals.

On Thursday, Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely ruled that pension reforms agreed to last summer by the city’s police and firefighter unions and then passed into law can not be implemented unless voters approve them in a referendum.

The city had hoped the benefit changes would save the city millions, including $1.2 million this fiscal year. But Stephen Cypen, attorney for Miami Beach’s police and firefighters pension fund, said in November that only a voter referendum or a judicial order would allow changes to the laws governing pension plans.

Cypen suggested at the time that the city piggyback on the two recent mayoral recall elections in order to avoid a special election, which can cost several hundred thousand dollars. But at the advice of City Attorney Jose Smith, commissioners decided to sue the pension board, hoping a judge would force the board to quickly implement the benefit changes.

Now the city can appeal or hold a referendum.

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