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Councilman satisfied with spiking vote, denies spiking his pension

On Tuesday, hundreds of city employees attended a Phoenix City Council meeting about pension spiking. The majority of city employees were against the proposal. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

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."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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