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Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007 | I will follow with great interest the city’s latest litigation deciding the retirement benefit rights of employees hired between July 2005 and February 2007, especially the arguments, as set forth by SDCERS, regarding necessary codification of the benefits into the municipal code, the root of SDCERS plan documents.

In the recent past, the city and SDCERS has used this argument to deny disability benefits related to injuries caused by the city’s mandatory F.I.T. program, even when an employee was injured while doing F.I.T. approved activities. This policy created a Catch 22 for employees, where an injury was severe enough to end their career.

If the courts rule the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is the controlling document, and the codifying act of the municipal code is a mere formality, then the city, in bringing this litigation, opens the door for NEW claims of coverage for the period up until the program was terminated on July 1, 2007. However, if the courts rule in favor of the city, meaning codifying the municipal code is a necessary process. Then all past and future claims from F.I.T. injuries can be denied by SDCERS as the city never, intentionally or not, codified the changes into SDCERS plan documents. If this is the case, then management’s word at the bargaining table is suspect and all future labor negotiations should include a caveat indicating the MOU is not valid until completely codified into the municipal code.

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