Monterey County

Pacific Grove discussing next steps in pension battle

City leaders will decide what to do about citizen's initiative petition

Pacific Grove decides to keep pension on ballot

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. - Wednesday night Pacific Grove City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss a lawsuit fighting the city's employee pension plan.

This all stems from a decision the city of Pacific Grove made in 2002 with the pension plan of public safety employees. Taxpayers claim the city can't afford the changes.

It's been a yearlong battle. The city claims the changes taxpayers want will never fly with Calpers, the state pension system, or even unions for that matter.

In 2002, PG modified pensions for public safety employees to 3 percent at age 50. City Council member Alan Cohen agrees the city simply can't afford that.

"Most policemen they can retire when they are 50 after 25 years.and they are going to be getting 80, 90 percent of their salaries? A lot of people are living to 80 now, so that is 30 years of them getting 80/90 percent of their salaries," said Cohen.

Residents stepped up, got signatures and filed a Citizens Initiative Petition last spring that seeks to take back that pension increase.

"That initiative is pushing the council for action actually," said Cohen.

The city fought back with a cross-complaint in court questioning the legality of the initiative, saying it does not meet state Calpers requirements.

However, in January, the judge sided with taxpayers and granted the initiative go on the November ballot with the condition they meet again in court in June, to decide the legality.

City documents state "the judge characterized the matter as a complex case, and made it clear that he would not resolve the entirety of the matter until the City's cross-complaint was also before the court."

The judge set a June 26 hearing for that portion.

The thing is, if the ballot passes, the city says it faces potential union and Calpers court battles.

"Do we want to spend the money now and try to save legal battles later? Or, do we spend the money and there is still a chance we have a lot of legal battles later?" said Cohen.

Wednesday night council will discuss three options: Wait until June and continue paying attorneys to fight the initiative. Appeal the judge's decision for a ballot measure. Or wait to see what voters have to say in November.

Frances Grate who is one of the names on the initiative says this whole fight is costing taxpayers money because the city has hired three additional attorneys to fight it.

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