The San Diego City Employees' Retirement System filed a complaint against the city of San Diego, asking a judge to determine whether benefits that have been contested by City Attorney Michael Aguirre are legal, according to court documents. Rebecca Wilson, communications specialist for the $3.64 billion fund, said the uncertainty surrounding the benefits "puts us into an awkward position." The lawsuit, filed July 26 in San Diego Superior Court, is the latest chapter in the clash between the fund's board and Mr. Aguirre, who has alleged that the system has improperly used plan earnings for other financial obligations since 1980 and that it agreed to allow the city to make less than its required actuarial contribution in 1996 and 2002.
The fund's board is seeking the ruling "for the express purpose of discharging its fiduciary duty to all of its members and their beneficiaries," the July 26 filing said.
Mr. Aguirre said in a statement that the lawsuit is a "mirror image" of a prior SDCERS complaint pending before Judge Jeffrey B. Barton in San Diego Superior Court. Don McGrath, executive assistant city attorney, questioned whether the July 26 complaint, which has been assigned to Judge S. Charles Wickersham, "is an instance of judge shopping," according to the statement. The city has 30 days from the date of the complaint to file a response in court. Ms. Wilson said it is "absolutely not judge shopping," calling the July 26 complaint "a necessary step."
Separately, Lawrence B. Grissom, retirement administrator, will retire at the end of 2005, according to a statement issued by the fund. Mr. Grissom was one of eight pension officials Mr. Aguirre sued in early July for actions he claimed violated their fiduciary responsibilities and, in some cases, engaged in felony conflict of interest by repeatedly allowing the city to underpay its contribution to the pension plan.
Peter Preovolos, president of the SDCERS board, said in a statement the board will begin "a national search for a suitable replacement," but he did not indicate a timetable for selecting a new administrator. Mr. Grissom's office referred questions to Ms. Wilson, who said the retirement announcement was unrelated to Mr. Aguirre's suit.