Georgia Supreme Court sides with Reed, city in pension challenge

The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's 2011 pension reform, ending a two-year legal battle brought by city employees who argued it was unconstitutional.

The unanimous decision, which affirms Atlanta’s right to modify its pension program without increasing benefits, could have broad implications for governments across Georgia grappling with looming pension liabilities. Separately, the decision could be the first step in healing a fractured relationship between Reed and public safety workers, who have been denied raises while the lawsuit was pending.

“Atlanta is one of the bellwether cities in the United States of America. The issue is going to come up again and again and again, and I think the Supreme Court’s decision and our work here is going to be looked at again and again and again,” Reed said Monday. “I believe we are going to be able to make the argument that our approach is the right approach.”

A handful of employees representing Atlanta fire, police and general workers filed a class action lawsuit two years ago in Fulton County Supreme Court, saying that a city ordinance requiring them to pay 5 percent more toward their retirement benefits was in violation of their contract and, therefore, unconstitutional. Such an increase, the plaintiffs argued, must also increase their pension benefits.

Fulton Superior Court Judge John J. Goger ruled in 2014 that the pension contribution increase is allowed under Georgia law. Last December, the employees appealed that decision to the state's highest court, which affirmed Goger's ruling on Monday.

John Bell, the attorney who represented the employees, said that while he “felt very strongly” about the workers’ position, “We’ve got a Supreme Court of very bright judges who are very conscientious. They called it as they saw it.”

Reed has refused to grant salary bumps to police, fire and corrections while the conflict played out in court. In response, the firefighter union posted YouTube videos and a billboard portraying the mayor as uncaring toward public safety workers.

Reed says he's now open to meeting with public safety workers, but under one condition. To find out more, visit

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