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Councilman satisfied with spiking vote, denies spiking his pension

PHOENIX — Phoenix City Councilman Michael Johnson says he has no regrets with his vote that turned out to be the swing vote in the Council’s pension spiking measure on Tuesday night.

Johnson said his voting against the measure had nothing to do with his personal situation. The District 8 Councilman, who is leaving the council because of term limits, receives a pension from the city because he is a retired Phoenix police officer.

When it came time to cast his vote on Tuesday night, Johnson struggled with his decision.

“I want to support our employees out there and make sure that they’re not harmed by this action,” Johnson said on Tuesday night. “Because I’m not real clear (on the proposal), and I sympathize with our employees, I’m going to vote no.”

That spelled doom for the measure designed to do away with pension spiking, where city employees can use things like unused sick and vacation time to boost their pension. The council rejected the plan on a 5-4 vote.

A day later, Johnson said he did the right thing.

“There are some things we need to do, some changes we need to make to make sure that we’re within the ordinance of what we’re doing,” Johnson said. “But we need to make sure that we don’t destroy the morale of our city employees.”

Johnson retired as a Phoenix Police Homicide Detective in 1995. When we asked him if he spiked his pension, Johnson said, “No…No.”

He called KTAR later to clarify his comment.

“When I retired from the Phoenix PD in 1995, the only thing that was pensionable was your overtime, so I definitely could not have done any pension spiking,” Johnson said. Johnson said he always abided by city rules when it came to his pension.

Whether the City Council will revisit the pension spiking issue in the future is anyone’s guess. Mayor Greg Stanton ended Tuesday night’s meeting by saying, “I assume we’ll be seeing this issue again soon.”

When asked if whether he thinks the council will take it up again, Johnson said, “I really wish I could answer that question for you. It’s possible that they could, but they may not. I really don’t know.”

He reiterated that he thinks the Council rejecting the proposal was the right move.

“I feel as though we did the right thing,” said Johnson. “We should let this go on and let the unions go to their bargaining table and deal with the issues we have at hand.”

But Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio doesn’t want the unions to have anything to do with city pensions. He voted against the measure, because it would not stop the spiking until next July. DiCiccio is proposing a stronger law that bans spiking for all employees.

He said that pension spiking costs Phoenix taxpayers money, and the unions want the spiking to continue.

By letting the unions have a say, DiCiccio says that “unions win, taxpayers lose.”