Ruling could reverse San Diego pension reform

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SAN DIEGO — The state Public Employment Relations Board ordered the city of San Diego to offer retroactive pensions to about 2,000 city employees who were hired after voters approved a pension reform measure backed by Mayor Jerry Sanders in 2012.

Proposition B, passed by an overwhelming margin three years ago, shifted new non-police employees from the debt-ridden pension system to a 401(k)- style plan. The ballot measure was a major part of efforts by city leaders to restructure municipal finances.

Four of the city’s six organized labor groups filed a complaint with the PERB, contending that the city failed to bargain the provisions of the ballot measure with them before it went to a public vote, as required by law.

The city, arguing against the complaint, said the requirement didn’t apply, since Proposition B was sponsored by private citizens, and that municipal leaders who campaigned for it weren’t acting in their official capacities.

The board affirmed a previous ruling by an administrative law judge that officials, including then-Mayor Jerry Sanders, in fact were acting in their city roles.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the PERB ruling was expected. The city has prevailed in court once already on the issue, he said.

“We will be bringing this matter to the (City) Council in closed session as quickly as possible,” Goldsmith said. “If the council authorizes an appeal to the courts, we are confident that PERB will lose again. The law does not give labor unions the power to negotiate the terms of a citizens’ initiative.”

Craig Gustafson, press secretary for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, said he was also confident the city would prevail in an appeal. Faulconer was a strong supporter of the initiative.

If the PERB ruling is upheld in court, the city would not only have to enroll employees hired in the past couple of years into the pension system, but offer 7 percent interest on differences in benefits.

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