City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is warning Mayor Jerry Sanders not to interfere with decisions made by the city’s retirement system.

The warning comes after a terse letter by Mark Hovey, CEO of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System, saying he believes Sanders’ office is not forcing most employees to pay more toward their pensions as required by a new rate structure.

Most notably, the new structure makes the city and its employees share in disability costs for the first time and represents a de facto pay cut.

But the city hasn’t implemented the new rates, Hovey wrote. He called that refusal “a violation of law,” a view affirmed by deputies in Goldsmith’s office.

The new rates spring from a re-evaluation of how much employees pay annually toward their retirement that Goldsmith had urged.

The city’s police union has lobbied City Council to pick up disability costs and a council committee forwarded the idea to the full council last month.

But the council hasn’t voted on the proposal yet and won’t until at least next month when it returns from summer recess.

To change the rates without a council vote violates the charter, Goldsmith’s office wrote.

“Further, if the City were to assume payment of employee contributions without adoption of an ordinance by the City Council authorizing this action, it would constitute an impermissible gift of public funds,” the city attorney memo said. “Please confirm immediately that no unlawful change has been made and the rates remain as set by SDCERS.”

A Sanders spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.


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