A long legal battle with City Haul and the media is over for one longtime employee, and it ended with a total victory for the embattled employee.

John Keane, former director of the Police & Fire Pension Fund, has settled his suit with the city.

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John Keane ©Photo by WJCT

City officials tried to take away his pension. But a judge ruled that he is entitled to the money. Withheld funds have been returned to him.

Keane also had sought damages and was fighting a retaliatory lawsuit city officials filed seeking to take away another pension earned for previous service.

In the end, Keane keeps his management pension and his service pension, and the city and pension fund pay a total of $250,000 in damages, according to minutes of a closed meeting of the fund trustees held Aug. 27.

One trustee of the fund, which is an independent authority of the city, complained that the city should pay the entire amount but another said that if the litigation continued the cost would get even higher.

The motion to settle passed by a vote of 4 to 1.

Keane started his career nearly 60 years as a low-level employee in the Sheriff’s Office. He moved up to become a deputy serving warrants. Shortly after consolidation he transferred to the fire department and soon became a union representative.

Subsequently he spent years lobbying city officials and state officials for laws that would enhance working conditions for the city’s firefighters.

Eventually he retired with 29 years service and became director of the pension fund. He lobbied for it to become an independent authority, and won.

City officials always considered Keane a little too independent and fought his proposals on many levels. They grumbled about his salary and he was attacked repeatedly by a small liberal newspaper. At times he was known as “the most dangerous man in the government.”

While he was director, the trustees created the Senior Management Plan to fulfill a contract provision in the employment contract of Richard Cohee, Keane’s assistant.

In 2015, Keane retired as the Public and Government Affairs Officer, with 25 years, and began drawing his pension from the Senior Management Plan. Two other people, including Cohee’s widow, also received a pension.

In 2016 the city arbitrarily reduced Keane’s retirement payments.

The weakness in the city’s case was apparent.

In a petition for a declaratory judgment and damages, Keane’s lawyer argued that the city general counsel’s once claimed to represent the pension fund, then said it doesn’t and then later said it did. The city’s lawyers also said that he was not eligible to be in the general employee’s fund, but then claimed that he should have joined the general employee’s fund.

In the end, the city government’s ineptness was no match for Keane’s cleverness and refusal to capitulate to politicians.

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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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