Monday, June 22, 2009

Institutional Knowledge

What is it worth? Can it be quantified in dollars and cents? When does it matter most? Within any profession or job it is that person or group of people who have been around long enough to know why something was or was not done; how something came to be; what the thinking was behind a certain change or implementation of a policy, procedure, rule, law or benefit. When it's gone and no longer available those in decision making positions are forced to guess at the intentions of those before them, lacking the willingness or desire to seek out this "Institutional Knowledge."

When Mike Aguirre was elected City Attorney, the purging of experience, knowledge, expertise and "Institutional Knowledge" took priority over what was best for the City. When the ex-chief was elected mayor, the purging of experience, knowledge, expertise and "Institutional Knowledge" took priority over what was best for the City. Mike Aguirre and the mayor each found it suited their collective agendas to hire outside council and consultants with no knowledge of the inner workings of the City of San Diego to do their bidding. "Institutional Knowledge" was viewed as a hindrance to the goals each had for reaching their agendas of eliminating DROP; reducing or eliminating Retiree Medical; eliminating "Terminal Leave"; reducing the interest paid on DROP accounts and the reduction of the City's workforce.

Thankfully those who possess the "Institutional Knowledge" from decades of experience involving policy making; law and labor negotiations are sharing this knowledge. They are providing insight into the thinking and discussion that took place at the time, when changes were made to collective bargaining agreements; enhancements to retirement benefits; withdrawal from Social Security and Medicare; communications with Social Security, SDCERS, the IRS; and City Council Resolutions. They are sharing their knowledge of where these items can be found; how they came to be; what the thought processes were; and the intent of these changes.

Joe Flynn served on the SDCERS Board from 2005 to 2007. Joe has decades of "Institutional Knowledge" related to SDCERS and the operations of the City of San Diego. Joe sent a "Letter to the Editor" to the Union Tribune in response to a June 12, 2009, editorial. Here is the letter he sent;

In your June 12 editorial you continue to convey the impression that San Diego retirees get free health care and the taxpayers get nothing. Not so. In 1981 the City initiated the withdrawal from Social Security to save the City money. To meet requirements for withdrawal, however, the City had to establish the supplemental savings plan (with mandatory contributions by the employee and the city) to take the place of Social Security payments at age 65.

To take the place of Medicare, the City promised that "The City will pay for the retired employee's health insurance." * These costs were paid by the City on a year-to-year basis without full accounting. The City then moved these costs into the pension system which contributed to the under funding. This move was later disallowed by the Internal Revenue Service. Accounting changes now require the city to show the future costs of health care.

The City's withdrawal (from Social Security) did not come from the employees or the Unions but was initiated by the City to save money. It is unfair to report and repeat only the costs without ever mentioning the savings to the taxpayer which have accrued since 1981.

Joe Flynn, Retired City Employee

Member of the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System, 2005-07

*City Manager Memo dated November 20, 1981 entitled, "Withdrawal from Social Security" plus attachment, "Outline of Essential Provisions of Supplemental Pension Plan."

John Kaheny is asking questions from his position of knowledge about the vesting of Retiree Medical. John's knowledge surrounding this issue directs the focus of the City's withdrawal from Social Security and the communications between the City and Social Security Administration. He points to 1981 and the file detailing the election of members of SDCERS when asked by the City to leave Social Security for a promise of a similar benefit to be paid for by the City. Mr. Kaheny believes; based on his "Institutional Knowledge" this information is important when determining the "Vested Rights" argument.

Mr. Kaheny's knowledge goes deeper when discussing the elimination of "Terminal Leave." Mr. Kaheny points out the Rules of the Civil Service Commission and the provisions related to leave. The Civil Service Rules which are part of the Municipal Code in Article 3: Civil Service; Division 11: Leaves of Absence; discuss "Terminal Leave" and its use. The "Institutional Knowledge" of Mr. Kaheny and Joe Flynn are providing the; who, why, how and when decisions were made; and where and how to verify these important details. These pathways are opening up other avenues of information and bringing to light related documents the mayor and city attorney do not want to see the light of day.

One of these documents is, "Opinion Number 2007-04" written by Mike Aguirre on September 27, 2007. The mayor and his minions tout and spout Retiree Medical is not a "vested right" and thus they can eliminate or reduce this benefit as they see fit. Even Mike Aguirre, who wanted to eliminate EVERY BENEFIT possible, opined this benefit to be a vested right. It is clear; AGAIN the mayor is hiding FACTS from the public and the employees he is systematically and repeatedly screwing. The mayor will deflect any knowledge of this information and point to some other opinion from another of his many "outside" lawyers and consultants. All of whom lack the "Institutional Knowledge" to provide competent and accurate advise.

More is to come as documents find their way to the surface as the "Institutional Knowledge" is tickled, caressed and prodded into action. The "Institutional Knowledge" may have left City Service; much of it did not leave voluntarily; and much of it was laying in wait; wanting and waiting for someone to ask. To think the mayor has the gall to boast replacing "Experience" with "Enthusiasm" when that experience is what carries the "Institutional Knowledge" that runs and protects this City.


Today, a jury in Vista found Frank White "NOT GUILTY" of all charges stemming from his off-duty shooting. Rick Pinckard represented Frank at trial and provided excellent representation. The SDPOA supported Frank and his wife through this difficult time. Mr. Pinckard is to be commended for his dedication and expertise in defending Frank.


Anonymous said...

The management of the City of San Diego is brain dead......

Anonymous said...

Regarding retiree medical, which for many of us, is the decision point.
I've read Mr. Aguirre's legal opinion linked in your blog. From it I read an entire history of changes implemented. Some agreed to by MOUs between the labor groups others not. I do note for the record the original intent by the city to replace medicare for the employees leaving social security/medicare trust in 1982 is clear.

It comes back the argument going forward on Thursday in Superior Court;
Why negotiate an agreement if either party can disregard its provisions? What point would there be in reducing it to writing, if the terms of the contract were of no legal consequence? Why submit the agreement to the governing body for determination, if its approval were without significance? What integrity would be left in government if government itself could attack the integrity of its own agreement? The procedure established by the [MMBA] would be meaningless if the end-product, a labor-management agreement ratified by the governing body of the agency, were a document that was itself meaningless."

Steve I'd be interested in seeing a new poll on you blog. The question would be:
If the city was forced to live up the terms of its promises regarding 100% coverage of retiree medical benefits would you stay? Yes or No.

I know if this item was resolved, one way or the other it would lift a whole lot of anxiety from my shoulders.

Anonymous said...

"Institutional Knowledge" also relates to other areas of the police department. It has a direct relationship to the effectiveness of the service provided to the residents of the City of San Diego.

For residents and criminals of San Diego "Institutional Knowledge" is important. If you're a normal resident "Institutional Knowledge" helps the police in initially investigating crimes perpetrated against you and your family; ensures that complete and comprehensive investigations are completed and forwarded to the District Attorney's office for prosecution; ensures that the police have the knowledge and contacts to take proactive action against criminals before they commit crimes by using informants and police contacts that they've been developed over the course of years. This "Institutional Knowledge" truly benefits the residents and has a very adverse effect on criminals.

Now on the other hand the lack of "Institutional Knowledge" allows for: incomplete investigations; errors in investigations; unnecessary release of arrested suspects because of incomplete investigations and follow-ups; inability to pursue and complete complex investigations; DA case rejections because of poor quality of work product submitted; wasted personnel hours spent just going through the motions; and the bottom line a waste of taxpayer money. All of the aforementioned only benefits the criminal and truly hurts the residents.

sparky.sandiego said...

The issues related to vesting rights for Retiree Medical will be decided in court. It would take much to long to discuss this here but from the documents I have been receiving over the past couple of days it appears there may be a very strong case AGAINST the city doing as they have done in reducing this "Retirement Benefit".

I will re-do the question Friday.

Institutional Knowledge will no doubt have an affect on public safety. Everything written above is correct. It will be the responsibility of each of us who remain to share our knowledge with as many as humanly possible. "Knowledge is power" should be viewed as the more people have the knowledge the more powerful we are as an organisation. Share your institutional knowledge and make us all stronger.