Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PERB Wins First Round in Challenge to San Diego's Pension Initiative

In San Diego Municipal Employees Association v. Superior Court (4th DCA, June 19, 2012) 2012 WL 2308142, the Court of Appeal found PERB has initial jurisdiction to review a ballot initiative affecting public employee pensions and the trial court erred by blocking the PERB process.

The case started after the “Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative” (CPRI) qualified for the ballot in San Diego. The initiative amends San Diego’s charter to impact retirement benefits for employees. The Municipal Employees Association (Association) filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging the City failed to meet and confer as required under the MMBA before placing the CPRI on the ballot.

PERB issued a complaint against the City and authorized its general counsel to file for an injunction. However, the trial court denied PERB’s motion to enjoin the City from placing the initiative on the ballot. The trial court also granted the City’s motions to stay the administrative proceedings and quash PERB's subpoenas. The Association then filed a writ in superior court.

The City argued PERB did not have jurisdiction over the Association’s claims as it involved a dispute over the constitutional free speech rights. The Court found while constitutional rights may be implicated it was not sufficient to divest PERB of its exclusive initial jurisdiction to consider the Association’s claims. The City also claimed go through the PERB process since PERB had already sought temporary injunctive relief and its neutrality was compromised. The Court disagreed the City’s argument that going before PERB would be futile. The Court also found the trial court erred in ordering a stay of the PERB administrative proceedings and let PERB proceed with the unfair practice charge.