Dallas police, firefighters agree to $173M settlement
DALLAS (AP) — Dallas has agreed to pay more than $173 million to settle decades-old lawsuits from thousands of public safety workers over years of back-pay claims.
An executive committee representing nearly 8,700 current and former Dallas police officers and firefighters approved the settlement Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported .
The settlement still needs to be approved by the City Council this summer.
Dallas will be able to pay out without increasing property taxes, funding the settlement with existing bond capacity, according to council members.
Mayor Mike Rawlings called the latest settlement “a prudent move for taxpayers” both financially and psychologically.
“I’m very, very happy that we’ve resolved this,” Rawlings said. “This is a major clearing of the air, and there are no clouds over us anymore with these lawsuits.”
Rawlings previously expressed concern that the lawsuits could help bankrupt the city, since there were potentially billions tied up in the cases.
Using the city’s bond capacity to pay for the settlement may mean that the City Council won’t be able to lower taxes as much in coming years, Rawlings said.
Dallas also pursued the same approach to pay off four lawsuits settled last year for more than $61 million arising from the language of a 1979 pay referendum.
The recent agreement still has other legal hurdles, including how to administer the settlement, said City Attorney Larry Casto. The agreement averages about $20,000 per plaintiff. The plaintiffs will need to decide how to distribute the settlement money, taking into account rank, salary and years of service.
“If and when it comes to pass, it will be a historic day for the city of Dallas. It’s been 24 years. It’s time for it to be over,” said Ted Lyon, who represents the public safety workers. “It’s important for the city and all the firefighters and police officers to put this behind them and move forward constructively.”
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com