MOORLACH UPDATE — The Supremes — February 9, 2011

Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors voted four-to-one to request that the California Supreme Court decide upon the constitutionality of our retroactive benefit case.

FOX News provides the first account of the Board’s decision and PUBLICCEO provides the second.

As a reference, the County of Orange now contributes approximately 31.4 percent of employee gross salaries to its pension system.  With an annual payroll of approximately $1 billion, the County makes a hefty annual pension payment.

FOX 11 News - Good Day LA -

OC Supervisors Vote To Appeal Pension Case

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to continue its legal battle to attempt to roll back some pension benefits for sheriff’s deputies and District Attorney’s Office investigators.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to appeal an appellate court ruling to the state Supreme Court. Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who has opposed any of the appeals regarding the pension benefits, cast the dissenting vote.

At issue is the so-called 3 percent at 50 formula, wh ich means the law enforcement officers receive 3 percent of final com pensation, multiplied by the number of service years, for employees who retire when they are 50 years old.

A panel of three appellate justices Jan. 26 threw out Orange County’s lawsuit seeking to stop the retroactive portion of the raises. The supervisors are not contesting the increases from the date it was approved in 2001.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has estimated the retroactive raises could cost the county for $100 million to $500 million more pension benefits in the coming years.

Wayne Quint — the president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the union that represents deputies — implored the supervisors to reject any more appeals.

"It was wrong on the facts and wrong on the law from the outset," Quint told the supervisors at their board meeting. "Your vote today is not about the pensions themselves. Your vote today is whether to continue a lawsuit that four judges and even your own lawye rs said was not going to succeed."

Quint has estimated the legal battle has cost taxpayers $2.25 million. Moorlach disputes that.

However, Moorlach said whatever the county has spent so far it’s worth it.

"We’ve got all this time and money invested, and if you’re really going to have change then it’ll be at the Supreme Court," Moorlach said.

"It makes sense to continue to request they hear our case all the more now that pensions have become such a predominant point of discussion in the state. It’s a real opportunity for the supreme court to set the record straight."

Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, said enough is enough.

"The public should realize that the courts have said the county’s case is so bad they won’t even allow the county to waste the court’s time in a trial," Berardino said. "To continue to spend taxpayer money on the case in this fiscal crisis can only be politically motivated and irresponsible."

Moorlach thinks the county has a good case because the pension benefits present a debt that voters were not allowed to decide on, which he argues violates the state constitution.

"If you’re going to say pensions are exempt then that’s clarified, but it seems to me that debt is debt, and if it exceeds the debt limitation then they shouldn’t have done it and it’s unconstitutional," Moorlach said.

The appellate justices in last month’s ruling said the board’s vote to boost the pension benefits did not amount to a gift of public money and that the estimates of future debt are uncertain since they are based on the predictions of actuaries.

The Board of Supervisors increased the benefit from 2 percent at 50 in 2001. However, in 2008, a board comprised of different members reversed course about the benefit when actuaries predicted hundreds of millions of dollars in future obligations.

Orange County to Take Pension Case to State Supreme Court

Written by  PublicCEO   

Orange County is two years into its legal battle with its Sheriff’s Deputy Union. 

The question that’s been debated in court decisions so far is whether a 2001 decision by the Board of Supervisors to increase the deputies’ pension program to a 3@50 plan violated the State Constitution.

Not only has the case been long, it hasn’t been cheap. So far, the County has committed $2.26 million to the endeavour. Should the County lose, it will also be responsible for the c ost of the Union defense.

But the stakes are high. Should the County win, Supervisor John Moorlach thinks the total savings could be in the neighborhood fo $500 million.

Surely, as the pension crisis continues to unfold, other cities, counties, and the state is going to watch to see if the court will allow unsustainable pensions to be rolled-back.

From the Orange County Register:

The County of Orange’s fight to overturn the county’s generous "3 percent at 50″ pension plan for sheriff’s deputies is not over just yet. Next stop: the California Supreme Court.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who has been a vocal opponent of continuing to spend taxpayer money fighting the case, wa s the lone no vote in Tuesday’s closed session decision.

The case is in its third year of litigation. A win by the county could save as much as $500 million. A loss could mean the county will have to pay their $2 million-plus legal bill along with the legal bills for the deputies’ union.

Read the full article here.


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