JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The city of Jacksonville's attempt to stop a lawsuit that contends the city violated the state's open meetings law during negotiations on pension plans for police and firefighters was denied by a judge on Friday.
According to First Coast News' partner the Florida Times-Union, Circuit Court Judge Waddell Wallace ruled that the lawsuit by the T-U will proceed.
"We are pleased with Judge Wallace's decision, and we look forward to resolution of this case on behalf of the public's right to know," Times-Union Editor Frank Denton said.
The lawsuit states that the city violated Florida's open records law because city administrators negotiated behind closed doors with the Police and Fire Pension Fund about changes to the pension plan.
Florida's Sunshine Law says collective-bargaining negotiations must be open to the public.
The city argued that the Sunshine Law did not apply to the talks because they were part of mediation in federal court.
Wallace said it is "not apparent" that the city or the Police and Fire Pension Fund ever raised the issue of the Sunshine Law when a federal magistrate approved going into mediation.
According to the T-U, Wallace also rejected the city's arguments that the newspaper's lawsuit is moot because the City Council rejected the pension changes proposed by Brown as a result of the mediation talks. It's possible the city and the pension fund will go back into mediation sessions to come up with a new proposal for pension benefits, Wallace said.
The pension fund also tried to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds the fund is not a bargaining unit, in which case the Sunshine State Law wouldn't apply to the mediation sessions.
But, Wallace said the mediation settlement agreement, along with a 30-year agreement between the pension fund and the city, "contains facts that are consistent" with allegations in the Times-Union's lawsuit that the pension fund "was negotiating changes to pension benefits."