Image: falseStatement: The city “laid off 200 and some employees, 600 over the year,” Mark Sullivan, president of the city’s pension board, said at an April 16 board meeting.

Determination: False

Analysis: Time and time again, we have called out city leaders for exaggerating how many employees were laid off through last year’s budget cuts. Sullivan’s statement is another case in that line of corrections.

In December 2009, the city eliminated about 200 filled positions from its operating budget. In February this year, the employees in those positions and some others received layoff notices from the city. By April, after negotiations with labor groups, the city had laid off just 23 people.

How did that happen? Many of those notified of possible layoffs decided to retire, work different jobs in the city or take pay cuts. The city still saved money, but did so without kicking hundreds to the curb.

Sullivan said he didn’t know that’s what happened. He said he recalled the figure from City Council discussions and assumed all were laid off.

The 600 layoffs Sullivan referenced didn’t happen either. That was the number of people who retired in the 2009 before the city adjusted its retirement benefits.

At the board meeting, Sullivan brought up the two statistics to make a point about the difficulty of predicting how personnel decisions affect costs. When the city changed its retirement benefits, hundreds of workers retired earlier than the city expected, impacting the flow of contributions and the number of people drawing money from their pensions.

No matter, there’s a big difference between layoffs and retirements, so we wanted to set the record straight. You can view a video of Sullivan’s statement here, skipping forward to 1:43:15.


Summer Polacek

Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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