Originally published July 11, 2012 at 11:51 a.m., updated July 11, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
San Diego was dealt two legal setbacks today in its efforts to implement Proposition B.
Two Courts Rule Against San Diego On Prop B
First word came down that a Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing the city from implementing Prop B until July 27. The voter-approved measure replaces pensions with 401(k)s for most new city workers and seeks to freeze the base pay of current employees for five years.
Then word came that the state Supreme Court has denied the city’s request to avoid going through an administrative law process with California’s Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB. San Diego’s Municipal Employees Association had filed a complaint with PERB saying city leaders acted improperly in supporting the measure. Michael Zucchet, the general manager of the MEA, said the courts made the right decisions.
"We’ve never argued that PERB is the last word on this, but the statues are clear that they are the first word on this. And why the city really wanted to skip this step is not clear," he said.
The PERB process is scheduled to begin next week. The MEA alleges that San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders used his office to campaign for Proposition B, which the union said violates labor law. Sanders maintains he was campaigning as a private citizen. An administrative law judge will now hear both sides of the case and make a ruling, which can be appealed.
City Attonrey Jan Goldmith issued the following statement on the case:
"On June 7, as the first step required by law to implement Proposition B, we invited our labor unions to meet and confer on its implementation. We agree with Judge Vargas that those discussions should move forward promptly as a prelude to any formal city decisions on implementation, but we will resist an extension of the TRO beyond July 27. Proposition B was placed on the ballot by some 116,000 signatures of registered voters, amounting to about 20% of the electorate. It was then approved by 66% of the voters. Proposition B arose out of the exercise of peoples’ constitutional rights and it belongs to the people. The City will not and cannot legally change its terms. We will only negotiate on methods of implementing it and addressing the impacts."
City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, a leading proponent of Proposition B, issued the following statement of the Superior Court ruling:
"Prob B is now the law in the City of San Diego - and today's court decision is a procedural requirement that will ultimately have no impact on our timeline to implement pension reform. We cannot prevent frivolous lawsuits from the labor unions, but once their procedural efforts are exhausted, San Diego taxpayers will prevail and receive the pension reform they have long waited for."
Even with the court's order, Prop B's language will still be added to the city's charter within the next few weeks. At that time, the city will no longer have the discretion to provide the old pension plan benefits to new city employees.