After a decade-long legal battle with the city, a group of retired Louisville firefighters could receive millions of dollars after the Kentucky Supreme Court turned down Metro government’s request for an appeal to their lawsuit.
The 140 retirees claim that they are owed more than $17 million in compensation and interest due to miscalculated overtime pay over a 15-year period. The state court of appeals had ruled that their union contract was violated because of the miscalculation, and the retired firefighters were owed their back pay with interest, but the city appealed that ruling.
The state supreme court’s decision to not hear the case marks another legal fight with public safety employees that Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration has lost.
In 2008, the high court ruled that the city miscalculated overtime pay for over 800 former and current firefighters that resulted in Metro government paying out a $45 million settlement using cash reserves and selling bonds. However, during those negotiations this smaller group of retirees rejected the city’s offer and went ahead with their own lawsuit.
It is likely that the city and the smaller group of retirees will enter into negotiations next year, after Mayor-elect Greg Fischer — who was endorsed by the firefighters union as a “fresh start” — takes office.
The prospect of paying another hefty multi-million dollar settlement, however, could present the Metro Council with some challenges in carving out that payment from the city’s budget.
“I have confidence Mayor Fischer will handle this in a thoughtful way. I just wish we didn’t have to,” says Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16, who co-chairs the budget committee. “I’m not sure where we’re going to get the money from this time. We have to make some serious choices. We have to pay for this and find a way to do it that hurts us the least. We have a responsibility to get through this, but how’d you like to be taking over as mayor and someone tells you, ‘oh by the way, here’s a $15 million tab?’”