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The judge deciding the fate of nearly a decades’ worth of public employees’ pension benefits issued a tentative ruling today that appears skeptical of the city of San Diego’s desires to repeal benefit boosts given in 1996 and 2002.

Judge Jeffrey Barton issued a ruling full of questions for City Attorney Mike Aguirre and attorneys for the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System. The two sides will square off in court on Monday morning at 9 a.m. to argue the questions Barton raised in his Friday ruling.

Aguirre filed his legal challenge last year, hoping to halve the pension system’s $1.4 billion deficit by voiding benefit boosts created in deals he claims violate state corruption and debt laws.

In his tentative ruling, Barton ponders what it would mean even if he agreed with Aguirre’s contention that officials had illegal motives for approving the pension benefit enhancements. He seemed uncertain that such ruling would consequently invalidate the contested pension benefits. And he wondered if it would be fair and justifiable to void them entirely.

Pointing out that the city makes the argument that it is being forced by the pension system to pay too much into the system as a result of the benefits, Barton asks:

“Doesn’t this dispute always return by definition into an action by the City against its own employees to undo a collective bargaining agreement enacted by the City Council ten years ago?”

The city attorney has scheduled a press conference for 5 p.m. Please check back with us periodically for more updates.

To read a copy of the ruling, click here.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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