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Appeals court upholds initiative ending pensions for city employees

SAN DIEGO – An appeals court Tuesday overturned a ruling by the state Public Employment Relations Board that threatened to invalidate Proposition B, which San Diego voters passed five years ago to reform the city’s employee retirement plan.

The PERB ruled in December 2015 that the city should have negotiated the terms of Proposition B with its six unions before putting it on the ballot.

The measure, passed overwhelmingly, closed the debt-ridden pension system to new employees other than police officers. Since the provisions of the ballot measure were implemented, most new employees have been offered 401k- style plans.

The proposition was opposed by organized labor groups, which took their case to the PERB.

The city contended that private citizens don’t have to negotiate with organized labor before proceeding with a ballot measure, and that even though municipal officials like then-Mayor Jerry Sanders backed Proposition B, they did so on their own time.

A three-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal returned the case to PERB with directions to dismiss the union complaints.

The justices also called on PERB to order other “appropriate relief” consistent with the views they expressed in their opinion, and determined that each side to the litigation will bear its own costs.