DALLAS (AP) - Dallas voters' decision to give police officers and firefighters a healthy pay raise more than three decades ago could become a billion-dollar blunder.
The Texas Supreme Court is considering whether to permit a series of lawsuits to go to trial brought by more than 4,000 public safety workers. They claim the city owes them back pay and interest dating back 20 years.
Their claims are based on an interpretation of a 1979 pay referendum approved by Dallas voters that the city argues did nothing more than provide police officers and firefighters with a 15 percent pay raise.
But the thousands of plaintiffs who signed on to six lawsuits against the city say the referendum did much more: that it specified the city must uphold in perpetuity a consistent pay difference among the ranks of firefighters and police officers. In short, if police captains received a 5 percent pay raise one year, so must all rookie patrol officers.
If the plaintiffs prevail, damage calculations show that the city would face a judgment of more than $1 billion.