San Diego pension problems continue

The city’s pension board has done it again, just in time for Christmas, a former city employee who was not entitled to the windfall has been given a 700-thousand dollar gift.

KUSI’s Steve Bosh has been following the good, the bad and the ugly of San Diego’s serious pension problem.

Two months ago the pension board awarded 700-thousand dollars to Judy Italiano, a former city union leader, despite a judge’s opinion that this payment was clearly not legally necessary.

Years ago, the board allowed Italiano and other union leaders, to pad their pensions by adding their union salaries to their salary as city employees.

Italiano was a city employee for only nine years as a clerk typist. Her pension check should have been 480-dollars a month. But adding her salary as a union official for 22-years, a salary that peaked at 114-thousand dollars, boosted her pension from 480-dollars to 7-thousand-200 dollars a month.

When the IRS ruled this illegal, her pension benefits were rolled back. She sued, and while the case was in progress, union leaders and the retirement board came to terms on the settlement.

The pension board said the 700-thousand was about what it would cost if the court case continued.

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said, “they’ve over-stepped their bounds over the years, and its almost cultural there. Some on the current board are getting it, and they’re raising questions, and I know that because I’ve heard that, but every once in a while they come out with something like this and its very disappointing, and we’re gonna challenge it.”

City attorney Jan Goldsmith has been on a roll the last few years at successfully rolling back pension benefits that are not vested. He says the pension system has no business doling out benefits, it’s not their job.

Runaway pension benefits are the major cause of our 2-billion dollar pension debt. Goldsmith says it’s time for a change. “I really think the city needs to give some attention to the pension board and maybe look at different, alternatives. There’s too much politics that hovers over that pension board, there seems to be a close relationship with some of the unions,” said Goldsmith.

Those unions also have a close relationship with a majority of the city council members.

The 700-thousand dollar award that the judge characterized as not legally necessary will stand unless council gives the city attorney its blessing to challenge it.

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