The judge in the city of San Diego’s high-stakes pension-benefit case denied City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s request for a summary judgment today, ruling that a number of factual issues under dispute must be considered in a full jury trial.

The city attorney had asked the judge to forgo a lengthy jury trial and unilaterally declare a decade’s worth of pension benefits illegal and void. In order to do so, Judge Jeffrey Barton would have had to rule that there were no factual disputes in Aguirre’s claim that pension deals struck in 1996 and 2002 are moot because members of the pension board violated the state’s conflict-of-interest law.

“This is a significant burden for the City given this procedural setting and these unique and complex facts and circumstances,” Barton wrote in the ruling released today.

The city attorney argued that any contract tainted by a violation of the Government Code 1090, the state’s conflict-of-interest statute, is illegal and void. He contended that the city used the promise of pension-benefit boosts in order to lure city employees who sat on the pension board into allowing the city to annually contribute less into the pension fund.

Barton said the allegation that a 1090 violation occurred must be resolved at trial, as material conflicts exist in the evidence presented during pretrial hearings.

Attorneys for the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System and employee unions argued to the judge that the pension deals were not simply one contract but a series of agreements and legislation.

Barton ruled today that he could not grant the city attorney’s motion because both parties had turned in equally plausible interpretations of the contract issue. He heard oral arguments on the case last month and again last week.

The City Attorney’s Office expects a full jury trial to begin in the fall.

Check back later for a full version of this story.


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