Tennessee Retirees Challenge Reduction in Cola

Two retired Chattanooga firefighters have filed a class action suit claiming the city’s attempt to cut their pensions is illegal.

William Melhorn and James Gaston joined two retired Chattanooga police officers, Johnny Frazier and Reuben Salter, in filing a nine-page complaint today in the Chancery Court of Hamilton County. The suit names the city and the Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund

At issue is the city’s decision to cut a 3% annual cost of living allowance for retired police and firefighters to 1.5%. The plaintiffs claim that retirees have a vested right to the 3% increase which the city cannot simply change by ordinance.

The complaint alleges breach of contract, violation of the Tennessee Constitution, and violations of the “contract clause, due process clause, and the takings clause, found in Article I, Section 10, and the 5th & 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution”.

Here is a copy of the complaint. Frazier v Chattanooga

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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