San Jose’s police union filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s authority to impose pension reform. The complaint was filed Monday, a little more than a week after Attorney General Kamala Harris agreed to let the Police Officers Association file for a judicial review.
The latest legal challenge to San Jose’s voter-approved pension reform questions the city’s right to enact Measure B in the first place. The POA filed what’s called a quo warranto lawsuit, one that demands a respondent to prove its authority to execute the power it claims. If a judge finds that proof lacking, the city would have to do away with Measure B provisions entirely.
San Jose, the new lawsuit says, violated the union’s rights by deciding to place Measure B on the ballot without first giving the POA a chance to bargain.
Ten lawsuits were brought against the city already, from unions, employees and retirees decrying the cutbacks in benefits, including lower accrual rates, an earlier retirement age and a smaller cost-of-living adjustment. Most of these federal and state lawsuits were consolidated to save time and free up the courts, city spokesman David Vossbrink says.
The City Attorney’s office told San Jose Inside that legal costs to defend Measure B in court have reached $1,017,000 to date.
POA President Jim Unland announced the new lawsuit on the union’s website, this morning. The complaint claims the city was “not complying with the law prior to placing their controversial Measure B on the ballot.”
“The attorney general has granted our quo warranto request to bring before a judge the important question of whether or not the city met its statutory requirements prior to place Measure B on the ballot,” reads the notice, citing attorney Gregg McLean Adam from Carrol, Burdick and McDonough law firm. “If the courts agree with our facts, then Measure B will be struck down.”
Mayor Chuck Reed relied on hype and overinflated projections to win public support for the measure, the lawsuit accuses.
“The mayor began a frenzied political and media campaign warning of impending fiscal disaster for the city as a result of projections for escalating pension costs,” the complaint states.
Reed said at least 38 times in interviews, including some in Vanity Fair and the New York Times, that the city’s retirement contribution would balloon to $650 million a year by 2016 from its $245 million level in 2011—statements the lawsuit calls “knowingly false and without basis.”
Some cost-saving measures reduced that projection before Measure B passed. The city also laid off employees and enacted other cost-saving measures.
In February 2012, the city’s retirement system actuaries projected a 2016 retirement contribution of about $310 million—much less than half the amount touted by Reed, the lawsuit notes.
Using Reed’s declaration of a “fiscal state of emergency,” the city continued to refuse to bargain despite its improved financial position, the POA complaint continues.
Unland, who came away pretty ticked off from last week’s arbitration hearings over Measure B-mandated second-tier benefits, says he hopes for a speedy resolution.
“The sooner the unlawful Measure B can be set aside, the sooner real, honest and legal pension reform can be negotiated that will save money and put more cops on the street,” he writes.