S.D. Appeals ‘Clearly Erroneous’ Ruling That Halted Pension Reform

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Calling a state board’s ruling against Proposition B “unprecedented and clearly erroneous,” San Diego appealed Monday to a state court — aiming to restore its municipal pension reform of 2012.

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City Attorney Jan Goldsmith
The city called the Public Employment Relations Board’s action an “evisceration of the citizens’ right to bring an initiative.”

A petition for writ of extraordinary relief was filed with the 4th state District Court of Appeal, asking it to vacate a decision by PERB that would unwind Prop. B, which moved new city employees except police into a 401K program.

The legal action was filed on behalf of the city and the 115,991 citizens who placed the 2012 initiative on the ballot.

San Diego’s appeal of PERB ruling. (PDF)
The PERB panel ruled that the terms of the new retirement plan should have been negotiated with municipal labor unions because Prop. B had the support of then-Mayor Jerry Sanders.

“The people’s right to circulate and support citizen ballot initiatives is guaranteed by our state Constitution,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. “This right is not subject to negotiation; it does not depend on who supports the initiative; it cannot be stripped from the people by a government agency.

“PERB got it dead wrong: Citizen initiatives give direction to government — not vice versa,” Goldsmith said.

The petition said PERB’s “confusing and far-reaching opinion” barely mentioned proponents of Prop. B, including voters who approved it with nearly 66 percent yes votes.

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The timeline for court action:

  • Within 10 days of the clerk’s notice of the appeal, PERB must file a record and index of proceedings; the deadline can be extended by 10 days for good cause.
  • The city must file and serve its brief within 35 days of the filing of the index.
  • PERB must file and serve its respondent’s brief within 35 days of the city’s brief being filed.
  • The city must file and serve its reply brief within 25 days of the respondent’s brief being filed.
  • The Court of Appeals can schedule a hearing for argument at its discretion.

PERB’s decision became public on Dec. 29, 2015, and two weeks later the City Council voted unanimously to appeal it.

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