A San Diego Superior Court judge has thrown out the controversial special benefit a firefighter union head received as part of one of the city’s pension underfunding deals.

Judge Yuri Hofmann ruled the retirement benefit — which combined fire union leader Ron Saathoff’s city salary with his union wages to boost his annual pension — was invalid because the deal violates the City Charter and doesn’t comply with federal tax codes.

The benefit called “presidential leave” is at the center of the state conflict-of-interest case against Saathoff, the only one who still faces state charges in the pension underfunding scandal. Saathoff was a member of the city’s retirement board when it voted to underfund the system.

Saathoff was a longtime power broker at City Hall whose influence, as our 2006 profile shows, lasted two decades and continued even after he faced criminal charges.

This ruling is the second in the city’s favor on this issue since December. In a case involving the police union, a different Superior Court judge ruled its presidential leave benefit was invalid for reasons similar to Hofmann’s.


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