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Rulings in two court cases involving the city of San Diego’s pension dealings are currently pending, as state judges are expected to issue decisions that could guide the ultimate outcomes of the district attorney’s and city attorney’s legal challenges.

The momentum in both cases dwindled considerably in December, as the stakes in City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s lawsuit were whittled to a minimal amount and the state Supreme Court forced District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to revisit a key issue in her prosecution.

In Dumanis’ criminal case against six former pension board members, the Fourth District Court of Appeal recently heard arguments that defendants’ votes for a 2002 pension deal don’t constitute a conflict of interest because the retirement benefits gained in the deal are exempt under the law. The six trustees were ordered in 2006 to stand trial after a preliminary hearing, but the case has since been stalled by the defendants’ appeals.

A ruling the district attorney’s prosecution is due by mid-October. The ruling will likely determine whether or not the case makes it to trial.

Since the Superior Court deflated the city attorney’s attempt to recover $900 million in benefits from pensioners, Aguirre has since redrafted the lawsuit to focus on several thousand city employees and retirees whose pension pay he is challenging.

On Tuesday, Aguirre and lawyers for the employees appeared in court to handle another round of hurdles for the city attorney’s lawsuit. At issue is the statute of limitations for the case. Employees argue the city’s time frame for filing the case expired as early as 2003, one year after the controversial deal between the city and its retirement board was struck. Aguirre argued that his filing of the case in 2005 qualified because it was within a year of him winning election to the City Attorney’s Office.

A ruling in Aguirre’s case is due out within the next two weeks. A ruling against Aguirre has the potential to further throw off his pursuit, and a victory for him would resuscitate a case that has struggled to gain traction in the courts.

In a related pension case, an appellate court reaffirmed this an earlier ruling that pension officials who were sued by City Attorney Mike Aguirre are owed money for their legal expenses. Among those sued were retirement trustees and officials who Aguirre accused of having a conflict of interest in the pension deals they crafted and approved. The city’s lawsuits against the individual officials have been dropped since Aguirre filed them two years ago.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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