The Morning Report
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Before Municipal Employees Association attorney Ann Smith presented opening statements for the unions yesterday, lawyers for both sides argued over the appropriateness of including certain arguments, documents and people from the trial.
One of those disputes was over City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s desire to call Smith to the witness stand to testify about the 1996 and 2002 pension deals, which are at the heart of his pension case, as well as a 2000 legal settlement, known as Corbett, which could reshape the stakes of the case.
Union attorneys have argued that allowing the benefit enhancements that were part of the Corbett settlement to stand would trim Aguirre’s challenge from $500 million to about $40 million. Aguirre said the unions are misleading the court about the settlement, and said requiring Smith to testify would show he’s right.
“We can prove out of their mouths that the way they characterize this document is inaccurate,” Aguirre said.
Additionally, Aguirre argues that Smith, firefighters union attorney Joel Klevens and blue-collar union lawyer Anthony Segall were “instrumental” in molding the Corbett settlement, which created a new benefit that would be paid out of a “waterfall” of investment earnings. He asked that those attorneys turn over their documents pertaining to the case and testify if necessary.
“They should, given their critical knowledge, take the witness stand,” Aguirre said.
The waterfall concept has since been derided as being an unsound practice that did not allow the city to store away investment returns from good years to make up for poor returns in others. Aguirre said the waterfall concept was a way for the city and its unions to add a benefit without having to account for it when it came time to calculate the city’s annual pension bill. Read more about it here.
Jon Vanderpool, who argued on behalf of Smith, said that allowing her to testify would “make a spectacle” out of the trial, saying that other attorneys were involved in the negotiations of Corbett.
Judge Jeffrey Barton said Smith and other attorneys involved in the trial would not have to take the stand, saying that Aguirre failed to prove that the union’s counsel are the only ones who could testify to the matter at hand or that their testimony would be crucial. He said he reserved the right to change his mind at a later date.
Check back later for news about Aguirre’s opening statement, which will take place this morning.