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State Agency Rules Against San Diego’s Pension Reform Initiative

— An administrative law judge with the state’s Public Employment Relation Board, or PERB, has ruled San Diego leaders should have negotiated with labor unions on eliminating pensions before taking the issue to the ballot. Several leaders supported a signature gathering process that put pension initiative on the June 2012 ballot. Several labor unions filed a complaint with PERB and a court eventually ordered the city to go through PERB'S process before taking it to the courts.

Supporters of San Diego’s pension reform initiative may have suffered a legal setback, but they’re not backing down in their efforts to eliminate most city pensions in San Diego.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said this ruling changes nothing. He said the issue was brought to vote through a citizen’s initiative process, which is protected through the State Constitution.

"We’re not gonna back down one iota, I can tell you that," he said. "Because the people do have a right under direct democracy to bypass the city council, to bypass the state legislature, to bypass the labor unions, and to bypass PERB. This is a constitutional right, no different than the first amendment."

Goldsmith said the city had anticipated this outcome. San Diego must now go to a PERB review panel and can then go to the courts. The process could take years. In the meantime, Goldsmith said the city can continue to implement the voter approved switch to 401(k)s for most new city employees.

PERB had filed several lawsuits against the city, asking the courts to first take pension reform off the ballot, and then to delay implementing it once voters approved the measure.


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