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Closing Arguments Begin in S.D. Pension Trial

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Attorneys are making closing arguments in the first phase of San Diego’s pension trial. City Attorney Mike Aguirre wants to roll back employee pension benefits to help fix the city’s huge budget deficit. And labor unions are not happy about that. KPBS Radio’s Andrew Phelps reports.

Jan Lord works as a secretary for the city of San Diego. Her pension could be in jeopardy, because City Attorney Mike Aguirre wants to roll back hundreds of millions of dollars in pension benefits going back 10 years. Lord says she has worked hard for those benefits.

Lord: I mean we’re going to come back 10 years later and say oops, we can’t afford that? Well sorry, we can’t take back our work. And we made concessions and took less salary for those benefits. They borrowed our pension money for Superbowls, and Petco Park, and Republican Conventions, and now they’re asking us to pay it back.

Lord joined a crowd of workers in a downtown rally for attorney Ann Smith, who represents the labor unions. In her closing arguments, Smith said the city must find a way to pay for the benefits promised to workers. Many union members, like Jan Lord, take issue with city attorney personally. They say he’s spending too many taxpayer dollars for a protracted trial. They see Aguirre as the man who wants to take their benefits away. Aguirre argues the workers should give up those benefits for the greater good of the city. He says those benefits are illegal, for two main reasons. One, he says city officials created the benefits without creating a way to pay for them. Two, he says the policy makers had a conflict of interest. Jan Lord wonders, then, why the city’s retirement board is to blame.

Lord: The retirement board doesn’t give benefits to anybody. The city council does. And they voted and created ordinances and created law putting those benefits into effect.

Aguirre is trying to convince the judge to move the trial forward. The questions answered in this phase will shape the stakes for the remainder of the trial. For KPBS, I’m Andrew Phelps.

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