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Six former retirement trustees’ request to dismiss a ruling that they stand trial must be reviewed more thoroughly by an appellate court, the California Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The ex-retirement board members claim the Superior Court judge who presided over last year’s preliminary hearing misinterpreted state law when he ordered a jury trial for the defendants.

The District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the six trustees, who were also city employees, for allegedly having a criminal conflict-of-interest when they approved a pension agreement in 2002 that ultimately raised their own future pensions.

Last January, Judge Frederic Link forwarded the case to trial after ruling that the prosecutors proved that a crime was committed and that there was probable cause that the case’s defendants committed it. The Fourth District Court of Appeal denied hearing an appeal on Link’s decision in September.

Wednesday’s announcement by the state’s high court requires the appellate court to spell out its logic for denying the trustees’ appeal. That order could require oral arguments, although the Court of Appeal has not yet released any plans for hearing the case.

Meanwhile, the trial is slated to begin Feb. 26, 2007 in Superior Court.

One major disagreement the trustees have about the judge’s decision is the notion that their 2002 vote violated the conflict of interest law. The trustees point to a similar law that exempts pension benefits from counting as a prohibited financial interest and claim that no case in California has ever resulted in the conviction of officials who voted on their own pension benefits.

You can read the entire defendants’ appeal here.

The defendant trustees are firefighters union president Ron Saathoff, former Treasurer Mary Vattimo, former Human Resources Director Cathy Lexin, white-collar union vice president John Torres, former Assistant Auditor Terri Webster, and management analyst Sharon Wilkinson.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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