CA Judge Refuses San Diego Pension Board Restraining Order Request

July 20, 2005 ( - A California judge has turned down a request from the beleaguered San Diego pension fund for a temporary restraining order against City Attorney Michael Aguirre to keep him from threatening the board with criminal prosecution.

Judge Jeffrey Barton issued the ruling after the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS) had asked that he block Aguirre from threatening board members if they refused to allow him to be the board’s chief legal advisor, according to a report. The SDCERS board also wanted Aguirre barred from contacting any defendants in a July 7 case in which the attorney asked the court to roll back the benefits of eight city and pension board officials (See  Lawsuit Intends to Roll Back San Diego City Pension Benefit Increases ).

Wednesday’s court hearing was just the latest installment of a bitter and long-standing feud between the city attorney and the SDCERS board stemming from a $1.7-billion shortfall in the scandal-ridden retirement system – a deficit that has also triggered investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Attorney’s Office, the FBI and local authorities.

At Aguirre’s urging, the City Council agreed Tuesday to set aside $250,000 to hire San Francisco law firm of Heller and Ehrman LLP to answer “specific questions with regard to pursuing receivership” for the SDCERS. Receivership status would allow a receiver to grant a waiver of attorney-client privilege so federal investigators can secure sought-after documents related to the retirement system deficit, Aguirre said.

Three recently appointed members of the retirement board resigned this month, citing the threat of lawsuits by Aguirre.

Five ex-members and one current trustee of the pension board also face felony conflict-of-interest charges related to the agreements to boost benefits, while not providing funding. All six have pleaded not guilty.