The Phoenix City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday night to reject a proposal that would have ended pension spiking among city employees.
Michael Johnson, Michael Nowakowski, Bill Gates, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio voted to continue the current practice, while Thelda Williams, Tom Simplot, Daniel Valenzula and Mayor Greg Stanton voted to end pension spiking.
Stanton said he is facing the reality he could soon lose more city employees.
"They may end up choosing employment elsewhere. I hope and pray that they decide to stay at the city of Phoenix," Stanton said.
Could pension reform recommendations for all city employees be enough to make some city employees quit?
"It's demoralizing when these employees have sacrificed [with] furloughs, they've sacrificed pay and yet it's not enough," countered Luis Schmidt, president of AFSCME Local 2384, which represents 2,000 Phoenix blue-collar workers.
Those recommendations from a committee charged with studying the city's pension program targeted car and phone allowances.
"For whatever reason, that [car and phone allowances] was allowed to be pensionable in the past. It shouldn't be moving forward," Stanton said.
That ad hoc committee also said the same for accrued vacation and sick time.
"If you don't take a vacation and you receive pay in lieu of vacation, should that be pensionable?" Stanton asked.
On Tuesday, city council members met for a special policy session where the pension program proposals were unveiled to the full council. Stanton said they're tough but fair recommendations.
"Some of the systems that have been put into place over the course of many years, that I have inherited as mayor, are not really fair to the people of Phoenix," Stanton explained.
But city worker unions said the reforms were misguided.
"There's only a few at the top who reap those benefits. The rank and file doesn't get that," Luis Schmidt added.
Schmidt said he feels, "The reason we're here is today is because of what the council voted for, to give [David] Cavazos that huge 33-percent pay raise."
He says the members he represents not only feel like political pawns, but also misled by their employer.
"From the beginning, these employees have been told, 'Don't use your sick leave. You can save it for your pension.'"
The city is being sued by the Goldwater Institute to have more accountability to taxpayers.
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