US - San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders has backed city attorney Michael Aguirre's decision to appeal against the recent ruling that controversially awarded benefits of 1996 and 2002 could not be reversed.
Aguirre - a long time campaigner against the benefits - slated the ruling by superior court Jeffrey Barton as "a defeat for the taxpayers of San Diego", and immediately announced plans to appeal. "This is not a proud moment for any city official who participated in the very decisions that are now being deemed as obstacles by judge Barton... and there is nothing to celebrate in saddling the public with this debt,” said Aguirre, who also branded the ruling as "a mistake".
Barton had declared that, due to subsequent legal settlement agreements, the majority of pension benefits granted to city employees in 1996 and 2002 could not be reversed, although he did not rule on the legality of the benefits.
Reacting to the ruling, mayor Sanders said he was "disappointed" but would respect the decision. He added: "I support an appeal so that there is no lingering doubt as to the ultimate legality of these benefits. The city attorney has assured me that he will pursue the appeal with his existing staff and that the city’s other legal work will not be negatively impacted."
Sanders concluded that the ruling reinforced his view the city "must have a financial plan in place to address the pension liability in order to restore our financial stability and credibility in financial markets".
Aguirre will now ask judge Barton to expedite entry of his final statement of decision, which would allow the the attorney to file a petition for a peremptory writ of mandate with the 4th district court of appeal to overturn the judge’s ruling.
According to Aguirre, the current combined pension and city employee health benefit debts amounted to US$3bn, or $12 000 per household within the city.
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