Today's long waited court hearing on DROP took place this morning. The judge rendered his decision and from the looks of it, was not very clear in his ruling. Case in point is the dueling press releases from the City Attorney and the SDPOA. During the hearing today, I received text messages from someone who was in the court. Who the person is does not matter; but what concerns me is the belief this person took away from court is similar to what the City Attorney reported in his press release. As the judge spoke during the hearing I received messages reporting the discussion. We all know how short text messages are and what type of information can be relayed in them. I would venture I received one hundred such messages and as they were coming in, I was becoming more and more concerned.
The last text I received was as follows; "judge acknowledges sdpd personnel are the best and have had their pay and benefits chopped away at for the last several years but he is not here today to rule on that. poa ordered to back to table to meet and confer about drop…the two parties are first to resolve the process first… poa has an obligation to meet on this issue. the court rules poa did not violate the mmb act. is drop an employment benefit… yes… the issues to be discussed is drop a betts issue. court declines to stop the change in entry age for now. to deal with the july 1st date sdcers and the city will respect the drop applications for july 1… for an unspecified time… to be determined later… as to interest rates… the court rules… rates… will stay place… 4 another 4 weeks." This is a person who sat through the hearing, listening to the sides argue and the judge presenting his ruling. To say there is confusion is an understatement. I shared the above text with several people at Headquarters after receiving it.
A few hours later I talked to Jeff Jordan, Vice President of the SDPOA. Jeff had a completely different opinion of what the judge had ruled. He explained; as the SDPOA press release stated; "Today, in Superior Court, the San Diego Police Officers Association prevailed in preserving the core benefit of the DROP program, which includes the ability to enter the program at age 50. San Diego Superior Court Judge David Oberholtzer ruled that while interest rate terms are negotiable, the DROP entry age is a vested benefit." Jeff said Mike Conger, the attorney who represented the SDPOA, believed the SDPOA prevailed on all issues critical to the DROP; with the exception of the interest paid to DROP accounts. Jeff said the judge ordered the SDPOA back to the table to discuss DROP, but also said any changes must be voted upon as prescribed by Charter Section 143.1.
Then I see the press release from the City Attorney that made me think I was in some dream world and confused. The press release said in part; "Superior Court Judge David Oberholtzer today refused to grant an injunction sought by the San Diego Police Officers Association (POA) against the City of San Diego to prevent changes in the DROP program. In addition, Judge Oberholtzer granted the City's petition for an order requiring the POA to "meet and confer" under state labor laws as to additional changes to DROP. The POA had resisted such negotiations, claiming the program was completely "vested". Judge Oberholtzer did not find that DROP benefits were "vested". Judge Oberholtzer found that DROP is a condition of employment. Judge Oberholtzer also held that there is no law requiring an actuarial study as a condition to meeting and conferring on changes and/or elimination of DROP. But rather, expected the City and POA to discuss this and other issues related to DROP when they meet and confer about DROP." So you can imagine the confusion? It is no wonder the general public cannot understand the issues related to DROP.
What do we know to be in agreement? The judge ordered the SDPOA to meet with the City to discuss DROP. That much in agreed upon by all parties. I think that is where the agreement ends. It will be several days and maybe weeks before we can get our hands on the actual ruling from the judge to understand the vast opinions of what the judge actually said. I think it is a sad state when intelligent people can sit in a court of law; educated in the rules and language; participate in the process and have such vast views of what occurred in a single hearing. It is one thing for a lay person sitting in the galley listening to the proceeding to misinterpret a ruling; but for professionals to have such issues is pathetic. Was the judge not speaking the king's language? Was he not clear in his decision and articulate enough to convey his message for all to understand?
If you are confused; you are not alone. The SDPOA will be working diligently to provide information to members in hopes of belaying the concerns the future holds. The mayor has made it clear his number one goal in life is eliminating DROP. He has worked tirelessly to reduce and eliminate the benefits of those who work for the City of San Diego. Rest assured he will seek a ballot initiative to ask the public to take DROP from workers. He is surly feeling his oats after today. He is popping the corks on his bubbly and toasting to a victory over the SDPOA. He cannot wait to get back to the table to wreak more pain and hardship on the SDPOA.
If ever there was a time for the membership of the SDPOA to come together to fight for a common cause; this is it. We cannot sit on the sidelines while our destiny is decided by others. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight with our every breath for our rights and those benefits we have earned over the past 25 years.