Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | Monday, June 13, 2005

Who controls the city of San Diego pension board?

Several readers have asked Voice this question.

The board of administration of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System does not report to any person or authority, state or local. The city charter set it up as a board of trustees with a fiduciary duty to decide both who is eligible for retirement benefits and how the fund shall invest its assets. Under the California Constitution, the board’s duty to the plan’s participants takes precedence over any other duty.

On an individual basis, however, some of the board members report to distinct constituencies. Each group of employees — firefighters, police and general members — fought hard to maintain separate elected representation on the board while the City Council was discussing a proposal to completely revamp it last year. In addition, retirees and the city manager both have a representative on the board. The rest of the board’s members are appointed by the mayor and City Council and after they are sworn in, they ostensibly have no remaining allegiance to those city officials.

The public is welcome to address the board at its monthly meeting or in writing. The City Charter does not provide the City Council with any kind of disciplinary measures to use against the board. Two city officials have threatened to ask a judge to wrest control of the agency from the board. Citizens have recently threatened to sue — most notably, of course, April Boling, former head of the pension reform committee, who, along with attorney Michael Conger, in December filed a complaint and a notice of legal action against the city unless it rescinded benefit increases Boling believed were granted illegally. She was later joined by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. The city’s employee unions vowed to fight it in court but the action was withdrawn after a request for time by the city attorney, the city’s audit committee and the mayor. The Taxpayers Association is still working with Conger to possibly refile in coming months.

— SCOTT LEWIS, Voice Contributing Writer

June 13, 2005. Clarification: The original version of this column erroneously implied that the San Diego County Taxpayers Association withdrew their lawsuit against the pension system because union officials threatened to challenge the suit. We failed to mention that in fact the withdrawal had come at the request of city officials and the city’s audit committee.

Please contact Scott Lewis directly at

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