Florida Supreme Court Sides With Newspaper In Dispute Over Closed-Door Pension Negotiations

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The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a state newspaper, settling a years-long dispute over whether Jacksonville and it’s pension fund skirted public meetings laws when it negotiated pension benefits in private meetings.

The Florida-Times Union originally sued the city in 2013, alleging that the city violated the state’s Sunshine Law when it collectively bargained pension benefits behind closed doors.

A circuit court had previously sided with the paper; on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court dismissed Jacksonville’s appeal.

From the Florida Times-Union:

In 2013, the city and the pension fund tried to reach a new pension benefit agreement in closed-door mediation sessions related to a federal court case.

The state’s Sunshine Law says collective-bargaining negotiations must be held in public. However, the city argued that the negotiations were court mediations, not collective bargaining.

[Florida Times-Union] filed suit, and the court ultimately determined the city and pension fund violated the Sunshine Law.

Circuit Court Judge Waddell Wallace in his 2013 ruling found the city and the Police and Fire Pension Fund had “confidential, non-public collective-bargaining negotiations” where public talks were required in violation of the state’s open-records law.

[…]

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a challenge to Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace’s 2013 ruling that the city of Jacksonville and the Police and Fire Pension Fund skirted the Sunshine Law when they negotiated pension benefits behind closed doors.

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