DALLAS (CBS11) – For 22 years, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund has been contributing to the pensions of police officers and firefighters who go on military leave.
While police and firefighters have been compensated, the fund’s board members said the city should have made the pension contributions and owes the fund $2 million dollars — since 1995.
One of the fund’s board members, Tho Tang Ho, said during Thursday’s meeting, “Even though the member is not harmed, inadvertently they are harmed because their pension system is having to float the city.”
The federal law, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, says “An employer reemploying a person under this chapter shall.. be liable to an employee pension benefit plan for funding any obligation of the plan to provide the benefits…”
The pension fund board said it realized its mistake of not having the city make the contributions in 2015 — 20 years after the law went into effect — and brought it to the city’s attention.
CBS11 asked another pension fund board member, Brian Hass why it took 20 years to discover this.
He said, “When you have money flowing in and when times are good, the grass is green, we don’t necessarily worry about the little things.”
But nowadays, $2 million isn’t such a little thing.
The fund just had to be rescued for fear it would run out of money within ten years.
As a result of a new state law, both the city along with police and firefighters will soon be paying more into the fund.
The fund’s Executive Director, Kelly Gottschalk, said the fund needs to be consistent when seeking payments.
She said the fund sometimes overpays its members and their families and then must ask them for a reimbursement. “If we go back to a widow to get the money, it seems very heartless. So to not go back to the city to say you owe this, they need to legally respond.”
In a statement, the City of Dallas denied any wrongdoing. “The City has made all of its contributions to the Pension System on time, in full, and as required by the law. It is up to the Pension System, not the City, to pay pension benefits. There are no funds due the Pension System from the City under USERRA.”
Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs, who’s also a pension fund board member, says discrepancies like this frequently come up. “If the city is responsible, than the city should pay whatever the city is responsible for. If the pension system is responsible for some portion of it, they shouldn’t demand payment from the city.”
He points $2 million over a 22-year period is relatively small when compared to the fact that the city has contributed $110 million each year to the pension fund during that same time period.
Both he and other council members and pension fund board members said they want to get this resolved quickly so they can avoid a lawsuit.