San Diego
Municipal Employees Association

Message from MEA Attorney Ann Smith: Prop B Pension Changes Finally Invalidated After 9-Year Legal Battle!

Dear MEA Members:


It has finally happened . . . on Tuesday afternoon, January 5th, after a one-day (virtual) bench trial – with 100 pages of briefing having been filed in advance -- the Honorable Richard E. L. Strauss of the San Diego County Superior Court spoke from the bench that he agreed with our legal analysis requiring the invalidation of the City’s Proposition B charter amendments and he made this result his ruling!  Attached is the Court Reporter’s rough transcript of Judge Strauss’ rationale and ruling as he delivered his remarks orally from the bench.  Judge Strauss directed me to prepare a judgment and the related paperwork to achieve this invalidation outcome. 


Let me say this again . . . Judge Strauss has determined that the Proposition B charter amendments which took effect on July 19, 2012 – to exclude all new City employees, except sworn police officers, from the City’s defined benefit pension plan – are unlawful and invalid for the reasons we have argued since MEA first demanded in 2011 that the City engage in a meet and confer process related to then-Mayor Jerry Sanders’ pension reform citizen’s initiative!  This means that once a judgment is entered – unless there is an appeal within the specified 60-day time period – the City will be directed by the Court’s Judgment to strike these Proposition B charter amendments from the city charter and to update all ordinances accordingly


As you may remember, after 8 years of opposing MEA in this long legal marathon, the City Council determined in June 2019 that the City’s legal efforts to defend the validity of the Proposition B charter amendments had failed and that the City needed to bring its charter into compliance with State law by directing the City Attorney’s office to join the Unions in this action to achieve entry of an invalidation judgment.  So the City and the Unions were on the same side in this action.  It was the official proponents of this initiative who joined in the City’s “purposeful evasion” efforts – Ms. Boling, Mr. Zane and Mr. Williams – and their attorneys who continued this legal battle going -- to the City’s detriment and greater expense -- in order to repeat the arguments they have repeatedly but unsuccessfully made to every court in defense of the validity of these charter amendments.  It is unknown today whether they will accept this determination on the law made by Judge Strauss or file yet another appeal once a judgment is entered. 


What does this really mean?


#1. The guaranteed collective bargaining rights of all public employees in the State of California have been fully vindicated now by this final invalidation remedy which strikes down charter amendments made by means of a government-sponsored citizens’ initiative for the purpose of evading the obligations of the State’s public sector bargaining law.


#2. The rights of represented City of San Diego employees to insist that their City employer must honor its obligations under the State’s bargaining law – just as they and their Unions have consistently done over the decades – have been fully vindicated.


#3. Assuming there is no further appeal by the official Proponents, this judgment of invalidity will become final.  On this basis, the next steps can be taken through a good faith meet and confer process between the City and its Unions:


  1. To assure that the City’s SDCERS defined benefit pension plan is once again re-opened to all new hires; and,

  2. To determine how PERB’s court-approved “make-whole” remedy will be implemented and on what time-line for all affected current and former employees.


This is, of course, much-needed GOOD NEWS going into the new year.  Celebrate this success – while being patient as the next steps unfold in due course.


Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy and continue to do the great work you do everyday for the City and its residents.


My best to all, Ann Smith


P.S. Please read the press release (attached) issued by our new Mayor Todd Gloria regarding this ruling.  In 2012, Mayor Gloria was one of the few elected officials in San Diego to vocally oppose Prop B.  How refreshing it is to have a Mayor that has been on our side from the beginning!