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City Of San Diego To Appeal Unemployment Benefits For Ex-Police Sergeant

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The City Attorney's Office announced Friday it would appeal a recent decision by an administrative law judge to award unemployment benefits to a former San Diego police sergeant whom the city contends had voluntarily retired.

This is the second such case the city has faced recently, with the first resolved in favor of the ex-employee, according to a spokeswoman for the City Attorney.

In the latest instance, Judge Jane Alshuler overruled the state Employment Development Department and ordered the benefits be provided to Jorge Leon, a 29-year SDPD veteran.

The city contends Leon voluntarily entered a controversial deferred retired plan, known as DROP, in 2008 and left the force at the end of the program's five-year period. He then applied for unemployment, according to the city.

"Employees that retire voluntarily are not eligible for unemployment benefits,'' City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "The fact that Mr. Leon voluntarily entered DROP does not change his situation that his retirement was still voluntary.''

"That an employee, after maxing out his pension, would then try to game the system to receive unemployment benefits is outrageous,'' Goldsmith said.

"DROP is voluntary. To pay for benefits to people who aren't eligible is tantamount to unemployment fraud.''

He said his office is committed to stopping what he called "abuse.''

Under DROP, veteran municipal employees could technically retire, but still work for the city for as long as five years while collecting pension checks in a separate account. Critics called it double-dipping.

U-T San Diego reported that Leon said the city lowered the interest paid into the DROP account, so it no longer penciled out to leave the force after five years. The change should have voided the DROP contract, he argued.

The city stopped offering DROP a couple of years ago because it was costing more money than expected.

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