Former SD Pension Officials Trial Set for February

May 11, 2006 ( - The court date is set for February 6 for the federal trial of five former San Diego pension officials accused of concealing increased benefits from fellow trustees, which allegedly helped contribute to the city's $1.4 billion pension shortfall.

The former officials were also denied their request for a change of venue, which they made on the basis that it would be impossible for them to get a fair trial in San Diego because the media coverage had been too concentrated (See Defendants in SD Pension System Trial Ask for Venue Change).

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, former pension board members Ronald Saathoff, Cathy Lexin, and Terri Webster, along with former pension administrator Lawrence Grissom and former pension general counsel Loraine Chapin, were indicted in January (See Five Indicted in San Diego City Pension Case ), bringing to end a two-year federal investigation.

The newspaper reported that the defendants are accused of deceiving fellow trustees by concealing material information on the pension fund, including the fact that Saathoff was supposed to pocket an additional $25,000 in his retirement package if the so-called “Manager’s Proposal 2” was approved in 2002.

Each faces one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and 15 counts of mail fraud, with some of the accounts carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and others a five-year term, according to the Union-Tribune.

The federal indictment of the officials was followed by state charges accusing six former San Diego retirement fund board members of breaching conflict-of-interest laws by voting to approve a plan that allowed the city to put less money into the retirement system in return for larger pensions some for the officials (See Six ex-SD pension Officials Bound Over for Trial ).