Many have mentioned the recent setbacks in court City Attorney Mike Aguirre has had. But the way they’re talking about one of them is starting to bug me.

It’s the McGuigan case. While Aguirre certainly fumbled it, and he looks awkward while he decides where exactly he stands on it, let’s not forget where this started.

Some background. William McGuigan and his attorney Michael Conger argue that the city illegally and deliberately decided not to pay millions into its pension system. In case you haven’t been around much, that’s a pretty solid argument. Conger is asking the city to pay $175 million into its pension system to make up for the years of underfunding.

Conger was bright. When he saw that Aguirre had written up a series of reports basically admitting that the city had done all these illegal things, Conger asked the judge to force the city to either accept or reject those reports as facts. If they’re facts, it’s hard to see how a judge rejects Conger’s contention.

And if it really is that simple, the city will have to move $175 million worth of assets into its employee pension system.

Why, exactly, is that a bad thing?

We’ll get to that later.

Everyone’s freaking out at Aguirre. They say the city would never be in this position – assuming this is a bad position – if Aguirre hadn’t written his reports about the pension system and then insisted he represent the city as its defense attorney against Conger’s assaults.

And Aguirre did look dumb in the situation. The judge repeatedly asked him to either admit the points Conger was making or not and he bumbled around.

People like Council President Scott Peters are not missing the opportunity to blast Aguirre for putting the city in a situation where it will have to give millions to its pension system. Again, as if it’s a bad thing to help replenish the deficit-ridden disaster that is the city’s pension system.

They’re right that this case is bad for the city, but it’s not because of the millions it would force the city to put into the pension system. It’s because a chunk of those millions will most likely go to Conger.

While Aguirre has miscalculated and earned the scorn of the judge for his office’s embarrassing handling of the case, it’s the city that deliberately underfunded the pension plan. If people like Scott Peters and the mayor had the courage to make up for that $175 million disgrace with increased taxes, land sales, massive service cuts or bankruptcy, we wouldn’t need an attorney like Conger to sue anyone. And we wouldn’t be in the terrible position of giving that attorney any more money.

Instead, Peters’ best solution is to hire – you guessed it – another attorney, continuing the theme that this crisis can somehow be contained.

It’s too bad Aguirre let him set up a situation where that is an acceptable solution.


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