Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DROP Showdown at Sunrise

Tomorrow morning the SDPOA will be in court (Department 67; Judge; Honorable David B. Oberholtzer) at 0900 hours to defend the DROP against the mayor's attempt at reducing the interest paid to DROP accounts; changing the entry age of those wishing to take advantage of this benefit; elimination of DROP from managers (Chiefs and Captains); and seeking a final determination that DROP is a "Vested Right." The City is attempting to have the court rule DROP is not a "Vested Right" and subject to negotiations.

The central issue of "Vesting" is clearly addressed by David Wesco, the San Diego Retirement System's Administrator/CEO, in a letter to the mayor on June 22, 2009. Mr. Wesco also sent a tersely worded letter to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith on June 3, 2009, detailing clearly the effects of Charter Section 143.1 and the fact DROP is a "Vested right" in the eyes of SDCERS.

The attorney for the City (NOT the City Attorney) attempts to make the City's case in their petition using the June 10, 2009, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling on "DROP Salary." The use of this ruling is almost laughable if this were not such a serious case before the court with extreme ramifications. Remember that "Institutional Knowledge" I talked about? This is a classic example of the problems associated with a person who is involved in an issue of this magnitude who has a total and complete lack of knowledge of the core issues. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal made no such determination of DROP. But it appears in a legal brief the City filed as their "Opening Brief on Petition for Writ of Mandate Compelling SDPOA to Meet and Confer on City's Proposal to Eliminate DROP."

The hearing tomorrow will likely take all day. The City was successful in keeping MEA and the other Unions out of the court. The Fourth District Court of Appeal refused today to overturn this ruling which sets up a faceoff with the SDPOA and the City. Mike Conger has prepared his legal briefs that have been posted on his web site for all to read. Take the time to read the facts and educate yourself. You will find a disturbing thread in each of the papers filed by the City. They have included information that is factually incorrect and in several instances the wording is almost word for word taken from article found in the Union Tribune; all of which is a fantasy and factually incorrect.

No court case can be called a "Slam Dunk" when issues of this magnitude are being considered. The human variable and potential for "If you say it long enough and loud enough; someone is bound to believe it" coming into play. The City's briefs are filled with the spin, half truths, miss-statements and flat out lies the Union Tribune has employed for the past several years. My hope is the Judge is made acutely aware of these factual errors and sanction the attorneys for the City for their careless and in my opinion; knowing and calculated miss-representation of the facts.

Tomorrow is an important day for the SDPOA and all City Employees who have had the City attempt to eliminate promised, "Vested" benefits and further damage the lives of so many. This is a political fight being waged by the mayor against the city's employees. This has more to do with ego than it has to do with money. The mayor has steadfastly refused to conduct an analysis of DROP to determine its actual cost because he knows the numbers would not support his assertion DROP is costing the City millions of dollars. The mayor has had ample opportunity to provide for the analysis of this program and yet on the eve of trial; in briefs the mayor and city assert in page after page their reasons for eliminating DROP; the "Double Dipping" costing the City millions of dollars each year.

The truth will soon be out and we can hope and pray for a positive outcome in Department 67. Do not look for the judge to rule tomorrow; in all likelihood he will take arguments from both sides and make a calculated decision in the coming days and weeks. The City is sure to appeal if the decision goes against them; keeping people in turmoil for many years to come. I say take one day at a time and focus on your safety and family. Control those things within your sphere of control and let the rest go. We cannot control the actions of the mayor; courts or politicians. We can control how we respond to their words and actions. Stay positive and be safe. They only win if we let them.


Anonymous said...

OK I say it, because almost everyone is thinking it... How the "snap" do I stay positive when leaders of the city, the managers of the departments are doing everything they can to "snap" us?

This smile, bend over and take it is getting very old, real fast.

Anonymous said...

Sparky appears to be saying "Be positive about the court case." At least that is how I read it.

I agree we need to hold on to something. The rest of what is going on is a screw job at the hands of the mayor.

Keep up the pointed and truthful posts Sparky!!!

Pissed Off Crazy MAD said...

If you have not heard; the court determined today DROP is NOT a "Vested Right" and ordered the SDPOA back to the table to negotiate this benefit. The judge said the City could change the entry age for DROP and SDCERS could change the interest rate. The judge stayed the changes until July 24, 2009.

What next? So much for positive thinking. Any hope people had for a positive outcome is gone and it can only get worse from here!!!

Anonymous said...

Well I spent the morning at the hearing and listen to the Judge, oral arguments from both sides... But before I go on, let's just say I was dissappointed that only ONE POA member was there part of the time before the Judges ruling at 1215. Director Sullivan was there but left before the Judge ruled and Brian Marvel sat with Mr. Conger.

Only one member... really sad to say the least.

Now for the results.... the Judge has ordered the POA and the City back to bargaining table to meet an confer. This ruling was certainly crafted with a slew of compromises.

I note for the record the Judge was not to impresse with the City's labor agreements record. Litigation has followed many of them over the last 70 years... A sad commentary...

Basically he ruled DROP is not a vested benefit...BUT many loopholes need to be closed before it can end. That's why he's order the parties back to the table...

One for example, is section 143.1a of the Charter... a vote must occur. Before SDCERS conducts the vote an actuary must provide an analysis of the consequences of the intended action. Then members can vote.

He rules SDCERS sets the interest rate, not the City and certainly not an MOU agreement be the city and a labor group.

He granted a 21 day grace period, I believe the date was July 24th for people to learn of then attempt to understand the ruling so they may be able to meet with their financial advisors.

To implement all the changes the city will need to accomplish a shopping list of task...Including change to the Charter section 143, a change that must go to the voters. In the mean time the status quo remains in place... But if I were you reached the threshold to enter DROP I would not hesitate for a moment...

Free Radical said...

The comments posted by the last couple of folks are factually incorrect. The judge referred to the DROP as a pension benefit. The entry age cannot be touched. It can only be taken away by a vote of SDCERS members (yeah right) or a vote of the citizens (maybe in 2010) after a charter change. Prior to an SDCERS vote an actuary study on cost neutrality must be done. We have to go back to the table because the contract imposed was illegal.... and for your info we have been trying to get back to the table to improve the contract imposed upon us.

As for the lack of Directors in court, we were out handing out retirement plaques. Mike Conger had our backs in court.

Any of you anonymous schmoes have any other questions feel free to come see me. I will be at the POA on Friday.

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt the POA will appeal the trial judges ruling today... I think everyone should wait for Mr. Conger's analysis of today's proceedings. As well as his recommendations for the future....

Free Radical said...

Myself, Brian and Mark were on the phone with Conger for 45 minutes this afternoon. Essentially the only thing the judge disagreed with us on was the adjustment of the percentage rate. We are not likely to appeal that. I don't know what you guys are talking about...Conger felt this was a win.


Anonymous said...

Dear SDPOA Member:

You will soon be hearing from the SDPOA Board (if you have not already) regarding today's Court hearing.

In a nutshell, the core DROP benefit is preserved. The City will not be able to raise the DROP entry age from 50 to 55. At least not any time in the foreseeable future.

However, the Court ruled the City can get away with LOWERING the interest paid to DROP accounts, or DROP annuity pay outs, according to rates set by SDCERS. After July 1, 2009, the annuity rate comes down from 7.75% to 5%. For new DROP participants, such as you may be later in your career, the ongoing active DROP rate of 3.54%, or as set by the pension board, will stand.

The Court extended the date for you and all other sworn officers to retire and take the DROP annuity option at the present rate of 7.75% until July 27, 2009

Anonymous said...

Is it true the Court ordered the POA and the City back to the table on the DROP issues after resolving details necessary to proceed.

Anonymous said...

IF it was all good news, why did it take 45 minutes to "talk about it"?

sparky.sandiego said...

I have talked to several people this afternoon regarding this issue. I happened to receive a text message detailing the information listed in the post from "Pissed off crazy mad". I shared that information with several people before I talked to Jeff Jordan about the judges ruling. Jeff explained to me essentially what "Free Radical" posted.

It appears from the explanation of "Free Radical" Conger did an outstanding job. When the dust settles and the ruling is put to paper we can all see the exact language of the judge and what the next steps should be.

It is obvious from the mayor's actions and words we will see a ballot initiative to eliminate DROP in the near future. It is after all his number one goal in life to screw us out of the benefits we rightly earned and paid for.

If ever there was a time for this POA and it's members to unite for a common cause this is it. If we fail in our absolve to fight for our rights and the benefits we have earned over years of sacrifice and giving; we will have failed as a group.

It is time to put the petty bickering, territorial, me attitudes on the shelves and work together to find solutions.

I will post later this evening my thoughts and suggestions of first steps.

Anonymous said...

It certainly is interesting how Mr Goldsmith saw this ruling as a complete victory for the City. You can read his press release at Voice of San Diego but he is saying the exact opposite of POA. According to him, this was a complete victory for the City. The POA lost on all fronts. Amazing how there can be that much of a difference in interpretation of a judge's ruling. Makes one wonder...what exactly is the truth of this?