Pittsburgh firefighters sue city to protect its pension benefits

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Terrified that the City of Pittsburgh might slip into insolvency and be unable to pay full retirement benefits, the firefighters union filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing the state from taking over management of its pension plan.

As it stands, Pa. officials are set to take control of the pension fund if it is not at least 50 percent funded by Dec. 31. Currently, the plan is only 27.5 percent funded. Under a state law passed last year, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System would manage the fund and require the city to make much larger annual payments to the fund in order to achieve certain minimal levels.

The city paid about $56 million into the firefighters retirement fund this year. If the state takes over the fund, it’s estimated that the city would be required by the state to dramatically increase payments, reaching $91 million by 2015, and averaging $120 million for the next 30 years. City officials and union leaders fear that the new payment obligation would render the city insolvent.

If the city becomes insolvent, the firefighters collective bargaining agreement could be thrown out and its retirement benefits likely reduced.

The union said that city leaders should raise taxes if necessary to head off the takeover of the retirement fund by the state. Doing so would allow the city to sell tax-anticipation notes, and offset the fund deficiency.

Pittsburgh currently employs 625 firefighters, and is paying retirement benefits to 1,340 individuals, including retirees and widows.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Lawyer looking to suck millions from apartment building owners over bedbug bites

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While it’s fair to say that everyone’s on the alert these days for bedbugs thanks to the media’s coverage of spreading infestations throughout New York City and other areas, Maryland attorney Daniel Whitney is hoping to turn the problem into a major profit center for himself.

Since Sept. 1, the lawyer has filed eight lawsuits on behalf of bedbug victims asking for more than $7 million in damages. The lawsuits, which range from $100,000 to $3.5 million, allege that building owners have been negligent in dealing with the bugs.

Whitney admits that his phone has been ringing off the hook, presumably from those sharing an apartment with the fearsome sucking bugs, and who hope to make millions off their misfortune- that is, before Whitney sucks off 33 to 40 percent of any settlement or judgment.

The Washington Post

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Prison release mistake causes woman to be brutally attacked; sues county for $750,000

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A mistake by the Multnomah County jail nearly cost a woman her life, and now she’s suing the county over it.

According to a lawsuit filed by attorney Greg Kafoury, the unidentified woman was in fear of her life when she was notified that her ex-husband was being released from jail on Dec. 13, 2009. The man had a history of violence towards her, so she worked out a plan with the help of government agencies to protect herself once he was released.

The lawsuit claims that he was released by the county jail two days earlier than scheduled, and headed straight to her home on the evening of Dec. 11. She awoke to him standing above her with a knife. The ex-husband then beat her and tried to strangle her, and left her badly injured from the attack.

The lawsuit claims that she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and will possibly be permanently disfigured.

The Oregonian

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Police officers disciplined for sex parties at union hall

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The city of Rialto, near San Bernardino in Southern California, has been hit with a $500,000 harassment lawsuit by a worker from a nearby strip club, after an officer got her pregnant and then began abusing her. Nancy Holtgreve, a cocktail waitress at the Spearmint Rhino, claims that officers began frequenting the club in 2008, and taking back some of the girls to the police union headquarters and the agency’s narcotics office for sex parties.

Holtgreve alleges that after she became pregnant by officer James Dobbs, he began threatening her because he felt she was jeopardizing a child custody battle with his ex-wife, and his relationship with a girlfriend. Holtgreve reported his threats to the Rialto police department, but she says that they took no action, a violation of her civil rights.

Besides Dobbs, who resigned while under investigation by the police department, five other officers were named for using the union hall and narcotics office for sex parties, and for having sex while on-duty. One of the five officers has resigned, and the other four have been severely disciplined, according to Police Chief Mark Kling.

Los Angeles Times

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Philly Official Demands Millions after Being Fired for Repeated Sex Harassment

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Former Head of PHA Denies Harassing Associates

The former head of the Philadelphia Housing Authority is suing the city for $4 million after he was fired for several sexual harassment incidents which he concealed from his supervisors. Carl R. Greene was sacked by the PHA Board of Directors after they discovered his history of sexual harassment incidents while on the job.

Greene’s lawyer Clifford E. Haines sent the demand letter this week saying let’s “get this settled before there’s more blood on the floor.” Asked in an e-mail to comment about Greene’s demand, PHA Board Chairman John F. Street had one response: He wrote, “Ha Ha!” – 64 times in an e-mail.

Haines claimed that the PHA was unjustified in firing Greene and called his employment contract the “tightest employment contract I’ve ever seen.” Greene was hired by the housing authority in 1998 and had his contract renewed in 2007.

In August, the PHA learned that three sexual harassment cases against Greene had been secretly settled for $648,000 and a fourth case was pending. The board was never informed of the harassment charges or the settlements by Greene or other city officials. The information came to light recently when he was accused by another woman of harassment and put on administrative leave.

After hearing of Greene’s recent demands, the reaction was one of disbelief.  “Are they delusional?” asked John Elliott, an attorney representing Elizabeth Helm in the current lawsuit. Helm, a former PHA interior designer, alleges that Greene made sexual advances during a business dinner. “It’s mind-boggling, the audacity of that serial sexual harasser,” Elliott said.

Greene filed a federal lawsuit against the board in September claiming that the PHA had violated his due process rights and breached his employment contract. He denied the sexual harassment claims against him, including those that had already been settled.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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California Lawyer Bags $500,000 Fee to Stop Suing City

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The City of Concord, just outside San Francisco, has agreed to an unusual settlement in a former cop’s sexual harassment lawsuit.  Lisa Capocci sued the city alleging that a male officer sent her messages on her police car’s computer, declaring “I love you” and other “unwelcome and offensive” messages.

The lawsuit claimed that Capocci “suffered severe and continuous gender-based harassment in the course of her employment with the City of Concord.”  She joined the force in 2006 and was subsequently trained to be a K-9 officer in 2008. She claims that after she reported the unwelcome messages on her computer, she was told by some male officers that her career was over. In early 2009, her dog was taken away from her after it performed an “unauthorized practice bite.” Capocci has since left the department.

Capocci’s lawyer, Stan Casper, filed the lawsuit in July 2009. The case was about to go to trial this week before the city decided to settle. Under the settlement, Capocci will receive $250,000 and her lawyer will get $500,000 after he agreed to never file a lawsuit against the city’s police department. Casper still has two sexual harassment cases pending against the city involving former police officers.

In 1999, Casper represented eight current and former female police officers in a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against the city and settled out of court on the matter for $1.25 million.

San Francisco Chronicle

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Best City Government to Sue in the U.S.

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Mayor Langford-his city loves paying lawyers.

In just 10 years, Atlantic City, New Jersey, pop. 35,000, has spent nearly $40 million defending itself from lawsuits according to the Press of Atlantic City. Between 2000 and 2009, the city has paid over $25 million in judgments and settlements and another $14 million in legal fees to local politically connected law firms.

According to legal experts, the amount far exceeds what would be considered typical for a city of its size and rivals the costs paid by much larger cities in the same area. In fact, the total cost of legal fees, settlements and judgments paid in Newark, New Jersey were about the same during the period, although Newark is eight times larger than Atlantic City.

The combined population of three nearby towns, Egg Harbor, Galloway and Hamilton are similar to the population of Atlantic City, and those communities collectively paid out $1.6 million in settlements and judgments over the same ten year period. Atlantic City’s payouts were 16 times higher. Read more

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