Lawsuit Intends to Roll Back San Diego City Pension Benefit Increases

July 7, 2005 ( - San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has filed a lawsuit that intends to roll back city pension benefit increases from 1996 and 2002, and names eight individuals who he says are most responsible for the pension system's current widespread problems.

Aguirre says 800 to 900 of the 5,000 retirees that are receiving benefits from the pension system retired since January 1, 1997 and are receiving illegal payments (See  San Diego Benefits “Void” Says City Attorney Report  ). “This is an effort to set aside illegal benefits and restore some stability to the pension plan,” he said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune news report.

Federal investigators are looking into pension board votes in 2002 in which a majority of trustees, including several city employees, endorsed letting the city underfund the retirement system and are also probing information that pension board members had been led to believe that a benefits package offered to employees by the city was contingent on the board approving the underfunding (See San Diego DA Kicks Off Pension Probe ).   Aguirre’s lawsuit covers the 2002 actions and identical actions in 1996 as well, according to the Union-Tribune.

The Union-Tribune listed the eight people Aguirre says he is targeting because they were involved both the 1996 and 2002 plans to underfund the pension system.   They are:

  • Lawrence Grissom, the administrator of the pension system
  • Ronald Saathoff, a former pension board member who represented city firefighters
  • Sharon Wilkinson, a city management analyst
  • Terri Webster, former assistant city auditor
  • Cathy Lexin, a former city human resources director and former pension board member
  • John Torres, an analyst with the Police Department and a current pension board member
  • Bruce Herring, a deputy city manager and former pension board member
  • Loraine Chapin, general counsel to the pension system

Levin, Saathoff, Torres, Webster and Wilkinson also face felony conflict-of-interest charges, filed by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, related to votes they made in 2002 as pension board members, the Union-Tribune noted.