Police union wins suit over pension cuts
Published: May 24, 2013
A JUDGE Friday ruled in favor
of a Pacific Grove police union over a lawsuit it filed in
November 2010 alleging the city violated labor laws when it
capped the contributions to police officers’ pensions.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills ruled that
the pension plan, which was adopted by
the city council after voters approved a similar measure, is unconstitutional, a point the police union had argued in its lawsuit.
The council’s ordinance had capped the city’s contribution to
an employee’s pension plan at 10 percent of workers’ salaries.
The city had contributed 19 percent for police officers into the
CalPERS retirement plan.
“We are happy that the judge agreed with our stance on the illegality of Measure R,” Pacific Grove Police Officers Association president Jeff Fenton told The Pine Cone Monday. “We look forward to being able to set this aside and move forward.”
The PGPOA’s 26-page lawsuit, which named city manager Tom
Frutchey and the 2010 city council, alleged the city violated
labor laws when it capped the contributions and gave voters and
the council the right to regulate retirement benefits without
consulting the police union beforehand.
The complaint was filed by Sacramento attorney Christopher
Miller on behalf of more than two dozen officers and other
police employees. The P.G. Police Management Association, also a
plaintiff in the suit, represented the police chief and its
The backers of Measure R argued the measure was necessary to
help control skyrocketing pension costs, which have strained
“The city has spent over $100,000 defending the police law suit
and the city will probably pay more than that for the police
attorneys,” said resident John Moore, who contributed to the
initiative. “But that is peanuts compared to the millions it
will cost in future pension by losing a case that could not be
Initiative proponents file suit
Meanwhile, the authors of the latest ballot initiative to cut
pension costs in Pacific Grove filed a lawsuit this week to
force the city council to put it to voters.
In legal documents filed May 21 in Monterey County Superior
Court, residents Sally Aberg, Dan Davis and Frances Grate ask a
judge to compel the city to set an election to let voters to
decide whether to enact an ordinance that would void a generous
2002 pension plan for police and firefighters.
The group contends the council violated the California
Elections Code when it voted May 15 to have a judge review the
initiative to determine its legality instead of enacting it or
putting it on the ballot.
This suit, which names the City of Pacific Grove, its clerk and
the city council as defendants, argues the council only had two
choices and the one it selected last week wasn’t a legal one.
“It’s a certified initiative,” Davis told The Pine Cone
Tuesday. “The council had only two options — put it on the
ballot or enact it.”
It also notes that city attorney David Laredo did not object to
the measure until after the group had collected enough
signatures to put it on a ballot.
“We filed our intent to circulate the petition,” Davis said.
“At that point, the city attorney, if he thought it was an
illegal initiative, could have gone to a judge and declared it
illegal. He didn’t do that.”
On Oct. 1, 2012, the group notified the city of its intent to
circulate the petition. On Oct. 12, the backers received a title
and summary of the initiative (dated Oct. 5) from Laredo and it
was published in a newspaper on Nov. 2.
The group collected 1,195 signatures that were certified by the
Monterey County Elections Office April 18.
“Now after we have gone and collected all these signatures and
done all of this work, they are saying it’s illegal?” Davis
The initiative asks voters to void a 2002 plan that boosted the
CalPERS pension plan for public safety workers to “3 percent at
50,” allowing employees at least 50 years old to retire with pay
equal to 3 percent of their highest year’s compensation for
every year they worked, to a maximum of 90 percent of their
highest pay level.
The 2002 council’s decision to adopt the plan was unlawful
because a public hearing was never held and crucial financial
information on how much the increase would actually cost the
city was not disclosed to the council and the public, according
to Aberg, Davis and Grate.