City Attorney Mike Aguirre repeated his call for the City Council to overhaul a controversial retirement benefit program that he claims would knock $110 million off the city’s current $1.4 billion pension deficit.

The benefit has allowed San Diego city workers to purchase up to five years of credit that they can combine with their actual years of service — but at a discount for employees but a burden for the city’s budget, Aguirre said. For example, an employee who works for five years and purchases five years of credit would receive pension checks that reflect 10 years of service.

Service credits also can be used by workers to achieve the 10 years of service needed to qualify for a pension.

Aguirre said he wants the City Council to pass an ordinance that would make the benefit cost-neutral to the retirement system. Participating employees would either pay back the amount they received from the discount or the amount they paid would count for a lesser service. Currently, the municipal code authorizes the retirement board to set the cost of service credits.

Aguirre’s proposal would also prevent workers from using service credits to qualify for a pension, meaning that every employee would have to work for 10 years before vesting.

“There’s no reason not to do this,” Aguirre said. Last September, his office released a report criticizing the benefit.

Four council members — Toni Atkins Brian Maienschein, Donna Frye, and Jim Madaffer — and have purchased service credits. Because of conflict-of-interest concerns, Aguirre said those officials will have to draw names out of a hat to round out the five-person quorum needed to cast a vote.

Aguirre is attacking the creation of the service-credit program in a lawsuit, however the litigation was slashed significantly by a Superior Court judge last month, and Aguirre is appealing that decision.

A spokeswoman for Council President Scott Peters said the proposal has not yet been scheduled for council discussion.


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