Atlanta's Historic Pension Reform Upheld in Court

by | November 12, 2014

By Katie Leslie

A Fulton County Superior Court judge has upheld Mayor Kasim Reed's historic 2011 pension reform, siding with the city in a class-action lawsuit brought by employee unions, the mayor's office announced Tuesday.

A handful of union workers representing Atlanta fire, police and city employees sued the city last November, claiming the pension reform that forced employees to pay 5 percent more toward their retirement benefits was in violation of their contract and, therefore, unconstitutional. Such an increase, the employees argue, must also increase their pension benefits.

But Reed and city officials argued -- and Judge John Goger agreed in his ruling -- that the change is allowed under Georgia law. The mayor, who championed the reform in his first term, has long said overhauling the employee retirement benefits program was critical to the city's financial stability, and will help Atlanta pay off a $1.5 billion unfunded pension liability.

Without increasing contributions, the city can't afford to pay the full benefits eventually owed to workers, city leaders argue.

Reed and City Attorney Cathy Hampton are expected to hold a press conference on the issue Wednesday.

Atlanta City Hall, as well as Fulton Superior Court, was closed on Tuesday in observance of Veterans Day.

An attorney for the public safety unions said he hasn't had time to review Goger's decision. Lee Brigham said it is premature to comment on the case and whether his clients are likely to appeal.

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)