Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit for Taxpayers to Stop Phoenix Police Chief from Receiving Illegal Pension Benefits
OCTOBER 28, 2009
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Pension Board, its five members, and City of Phoenix Chief of Police Jack F. Harris to stop the illegal payment of pension benefits to Chief Harris valued at approximately $90,000 per year. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on October 28 with the Superior Court for the State of Arizona on behalf of taxpayers and residents of the City of Phoenix, including a number of active and retired members of the Phoenix Police Department.
According to Arizona law, if a retired member of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System “subsequently becomes employed in the same position by the employer from which the member retired, the system shall not make pension payments to the retired member during the period of reemployment.”
According to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, Chief Harris retired from the City of Phoenix Police Department “on or about January 19, 2007,” and was subsequently rehired as “Public Safety Manager.” However, Chief Harris continues to head the Phoenix Police Department. He not only uses the title of “Chief of Police,” but he also wears the same uniform and has the same office at Police Headquarters as he did before his “retirement.” Chief Harris is listed as “Public Safety Manager/Police Chief Jack Harris” on the Phoenix Police Department’s organizational chart. Nonetheless, Chief Harris continues to take pension payments, contrary to the requirements of the law.
Judicial Watch previously requested in a letter dated August 27, 2009, that Arizona Attorney General Goddard take action to enjoin the payment of the illegal pension benefits to Chief Harris. However, Attorney General Goddard refused to take action, according to a September 26th letter from the Attorney General’s Division Chief Counsel Donald Conrad. Arizona law empowers a taxpayer to institute an action if the taxpayer makes a written request to the Attorney General to institute such an action and the Attorney General fails to do so within sixty (60) days. As the sixty day period has passed without any action by the Attorney General, Judicial Watch is filing this Arizona taxpayer lawsuit to end “illegal payment of pension benefits to Chief Harris.”
“Police Chief Harris’ alleged double dipping is of deep concern to Arizona taxpayers who are outraged by this apparent waste of taxpayer funds. And certainly our tax-paying Phoenix law enforcement clients want to protect their pension fund. In the absence of leadership from Attorney General Goddard, Judicial Watch is happy to represent Phoenix taxpayers as they seek to enforce the rule of law against Chief Harris and the Phoenix Police Pension Board,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.