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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Legal Hearing To Begin On San Diego’s Pension Measure

San Diego and its largest labor union will battle it out over pension reform today. A hearing will begin later this morning about whether city officials violated labor law in campaigning for Proposition B.

— Representatives from the city and the Municipal Employees Association will present their cases regarding the legality of Proposition B to an administrative law judge as part of the Public Employment Relations Board process. The MEA filed a complaint with PERB alleging Mayor Jerry Sanders used his office improperly when campaigning for Proposition B. The voter-approved measure replaces pensions with 401(k)s for most new hires.

Attorney Ricardo Ochoa, a professor at California Western School of Law, has argued several cases in front of PERB. He said the organization is independent and neutral. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had called PERB the city's adversary at one point. Ochoa disagrees with that assessment.

"Never before have there been accusations or insinuations that it is beholden to any one side or another," he said. "Its members are confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the governor just like all other appointees. And it is definitely a neutral agency."

The hearing for the case is scheduled to last four days. But Ochoa said it could take six months to a year to work through the administrative process. That does not include any potential court appeals. City leaders have said they want a quick implementation of Proposition B. But Ochoa said this case is especially complicated because it’s about an issue PERB hasn’t considered before.

"At what point do city officials, who are promoting a citizens initiative, but which they are using their office as elected officials to promote it in the public eye -- at what point does that become an official city action?" he asked.

The hearing is being held in Glendale. Mayor Sanders is expected to testify on Wednesday.

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