CA Judge Pulls Back Ruling Against Aguirre

February 25, 2008 ( - A California state judge last week ruled that San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre could not sue the city pension system without City Council approval, but then withdrew his own decision.

A San Diego Union-Tribune news story said Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt told lawyers in the case to submit additional legal briefs with their interpretation of the exact scope of the City Attorney’s authority under the City Charter. Nevitt is expected to release a new preliminary ruling before a March 21 hearing in the ongoing feud over Aguirre’s long-standing opposition to the city retirement board’s taking on almost $150 million in costs to fund a pension perk.

According to the Union-Tribune,   the debate over the limits of the City Attorney’s authority have dragged on for years with Aguirre arguing that he can act independently on behalf of the public, while council members maintain that the city attorney works for the council and mayor, not residents. Pension system attorneys challenged Aguirre’s suit on that point, alleging that he did not obtain the required permission to sue over the pension program.

In addition, Aguirre’s office is the subject of a State Bar of California investigation, in part over the question of whether Aguirre properly secured authority to pursue his case to overturn two rounds of pension benefit increases, the news story said.

The case centers on a determination last year that former pension board members underestimated the cost of a retirement program, a decision that led to about 12% of the $1.2 billion shortfall the city faces in its pension obligations (See SD’s Aguirre: I’m Still in the Pension Fight ).