San Diego's Aguirre Turned out of Office as City Attorney

November 12, 2008 ( - In addition to voting for the next president, San Diego voters last week turned out of office a city official who has played a major role in the city's pension crisis in recent years.

The San Diego Union-Tribune said City Attorney Michael Aguirre lost his re-election bid by a resounding margin – in part because he could not snap a string of pension-related defeats in court. Aguirre told the newspaper it would have been “advantangeous” if a tentative ruling by a state judge that appeared to hand Aguirre his first legal victory in the matter had come before his Election Day defeat.

He repeated his hope that the San Diego City Council and his successor, Jan Goldsmith, would consider continuing all aspects of his legal challenge of $900 million of pension benefits he believes were granted illegally.

“It’s what I hope will be the first of several that will roll back the benefits,” Aguirre told the newspaper. “If you misprice the benefits, you can’t make the city pay for it. That was something the board did. The city and the taxpayers shouldn’t have to make up for that.”

San Diego Superior Court Judge William Nevitt Jr. said on Monday that he was ready to set aside a November 2007 pension board vote that caused San Diego to cover the costs of a particular benefit shortfall with annual city contributions to the pension system. “It was unlawful to charge the entire ‘shortfall’ to the city,” Nevitt wrote, according to the Union-Tribune.   A final ruling from the judge is expected this week.

If the judge maintains his initial ruling, the system will not be able to keep billing the city for thousands of years of service that employees purchased at a deep discount in 2003 to inflate their pensions, Aguirre said.

The shortfall, pegged by pension officials at up to $40 million, is the difference between what employees paid to purchase service credits and what it will cost to pay the pensions of those employees once they retire, the newspaper said.