Breaking News & Press Releases
COURT HEARING IN LAWSUIT AGAINST NFL OVER CHARGERS’ RELOCATION SET FOR FRIDAY (JULY 2022).
San Diego attorneys filed a lawsuit against the NFL and its team owners, accusing them of “violating their own rules governing team relocations” in relation to the Chargers’ move to L.A., according to Jeff McDonald of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The legal complaint was filed by Aguirre & Severson, LLP in San Diego Superior Court (2022).
San Diego attorneys file lawsuit against NFL over Chargers move (sportsbusinessjournal.com) – “A Roadmap for Suing the NFL: How San Diego Taxpayers Are Using St. Louis’ Success as a Plan in Their Own Suit Over Relocation, and Will it Pay Off?” (April 2022 – SLU Law Journal) A Roadmap for Suing the NFL: How San Diego Taxpayers Are Using St. Louis’ Success as a Plan in Their Own Suit Over Relocation, and Will it Pay Off? (slu.edu)
SAN DIEGO’S 101 ASH STREET SETTLEMENT SHOWDOWN (JULY 2022).
San Diego’s 101 Ash Street settlement showdown – The San Diego Union-Tribune (sandiegouniontribune.com) At a press conference for 101 Ash Street, former City Attorney Michael Aguirre and law partner Attorney Maria Severson said the mayor’s settlement plan would make a bad deal worse. (Jeff McDonald / San Diego Union-Tribune) Lawyers suing over Ash Street lease want city’s settlement deal blocked – The San Diego Union-Tribune (sandiegouniontribune.com)
SAN DIEGANS OUTRAGED OVER RECENT UTILITY BILLS; SDG&E RATES HIGHEST IN THE U.S. SDG&E’s Plan to Charge Ratepayers for 2007 Wildfires Hit with Opposition.
SDG&E’s Plan to Charge Ratepayers for 2007 Wildfires Hit With Opposition – NBC 7 San Diego (nbcsandiego.com) San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) plan to ask ratepayers to cover costs associated with the 2007 wildfires is being hit with opposition from Aguirre & Severson, LLP. Aguirre & Severson filed a legal motion on behalf of Ruth Henricks against SDG&E’s efforts.
SEALED COURT RECORDS RELEASED SHOW CPUC OFFICIALS MADE FALSE STATEMENTS TO GET MILLIONS OF $ FROM LEGISLATURE TO OBSTRUCT SAN ONOFRE INVESTIGATION http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sd-me-cpuc-probe-20171120-story.html
April 21, 2016, The California State Assembly Utilities Committee approved a constitutional amendment today that could eliminate the Public Utilities Commission. See KUSI interview of Aguirre & Severson.
April 21, 2016, Aguirre & Severson testimony before the California Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee in support of Assemby Constitutional Amendment 11.
Aguirre & Severson Publish 18-page criminal affidavit of Special Agent to the Office of the California Attorney General implicating top California Public Utilities Commission Officials.
August 7, 2015, San Diego Union Tribune reporter Jeff McDonald writes that Ed Randolph, a Public Utility Commission employee was present during the illicit rate-setting meeting in Warsaw Poland. Randolph’s sworn declaration suggests that Stephen Picket of Southern California Edison was untruthful in statements to the Commission. According to Mike Aguirre of Aguirre & Severson, called the sworn Declaration a “gamechanger.“
August 6, 2015, San Onofre Scandal deepens with perjury charges Mike Aguirre comments on live on KUSI as the $35 Million in fines for perjury, contempt of court in Public Utility Commission Hearings as the scandal surrounding fraud at San Onofre takes on new meaning.
Public Advocates call on Governor Jerry Brown to take action against CPUC corruption
August 6, 2015, Today, Mike Aguirre was joined by Ray Lutz of the not-for-profit Citizen’s Oversight in calling for an independent investigation of Brown’s appointees to the California Public Utilities Commission in the wake of an ALJ ruling demanding $34 million in fines to Southern California Edison. Get a quick background on the San Onofre Cover up.
August 6, 2015,A CPUC Administrative Law Judge has ordered Southern California Edison to explain why it should not be fined $34 million dollars for failing to report secret ex-parte meetings with top deecionsmakers at the California Public Utilities Commission.
Destruction of evidence by Southern California Edison
Monday, August 3, 2015 Press Release: New documents show that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) fiddled while Edison burned documents critical to an investigation of the September 8th 2011 blackout that took down the nuclear generators at San Onofre. Read the COMPLAINT.
Best-ever explanation of the ratepayer fraud at San Onofre!
Under California law, your electric rates can’t be increased without public hearings. Yet that’s exactly what happened at San Onofre. In this interview, Maria Severson delivers a simple lay explanation of the fraud at San Onofre, and how SDG&E and Southern California Edison ratepayers are footing the bill for a multi-billion dollar bailout of Southern California Edison without public hearings. Watch the interview.
Utilities Commission hires another criminal defense attorney
By reporter Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union Tribune, May 29, 2015 – As a part of its ongoing effort to stonewall the Aguirre & Severson investigation into corruption, the California Public Utilities Commission has hired yet another criminal defense firm. Cost to ratepayers so far: More than $5 million. Full story.
Why today’s story in the San Diego Union Tribune is a smoking gun:
Secret emails unearthed by Aguirre & Severson strongly suggest that the “phases” of the investigation into the nuke failure at San Onofre were designed to implement a coverup of wrongdoing by Southern California Edison (SCE). The e-mails show improper conversations between Judge Melanie Darling of the California Public Utilities Commission, and Russel Worden of Southern California Edison. The e-mails discuss how on December 4, 2012, Judge Melanie Darling called SCE and agreed to participate in a cover-up by taking the unusual step of breaking the San Onofre hearings (known as OII’s) into three separate phases (the e-mails actually reference these “phases”).
This change allowed Southern California Edison to stonewall any questions into whether or not utility was 100% responsible for the debts it created when it knowingly installed defective nuclear generators at San Onofre. Thanks to Melanie Darling’s pre-hearing negotiations with SCE, the investigation into whether or not SCE should be 100% liable for all of the costs was formally terminated. The “Phase 3 Investigation” never happened. Nor will it as long as Melanie Darling is in charge of the so-called “investigation.” Cost to ratepayers? $3.3 Billon. Get the San Diego Union Tribune story here.
By Morgan Lee Sunday May 24, 2015
The public was none the wiser. All the key parties in the room for the only public hearing on the $4.7 billion settlement agreement for shutdown costs at the failed San Onofre nuclear plant knew that the pact had its origins at a secret meeting in Poland.
The consumer advocate and power company executive who agreed to the settlement, and two regulators who would sign off, all knew about handwritten notes laying out a framework on the stationery of the luxury Hotel Bristol Warsaw.
Even as iconoclastic San Diego attorney Michael Aguirre grilled them about suspected backchannel communications at that May 2014 hearing in San Francisco, the meeting remained a secret … FULL STORY HERE.
The U~T San Diego’s Jeff McDonald explains how our corrupt Public Utilities Commission is building an unnecessary fossil-fueled power plant and suppressing the development of cheap green energy from the Imperial Valley. Full Story.
How did Stepanie Pincetl
know her department at
UCLA would get $25
Million from the San Onofre
Bailout months before
May 4, 2015: When Michael Peevey, President of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) got his secret marching orders from Ron Litzinger of SoCal Edison on how CPUC would bail out Edison at ratepayer expense, Mr. Peevey demanded that Edison funnel $25 million for “Greenhouse Gas Research” to UCLA (where Peevey sits on the Board). A year later when the dirty bailout deal was announced, there was no provision for Peevey’s $25 million in payola. Peevey then ordered fellow Commissioner Mike Florio to add in a last-minute “surprise” amendment to the bailout deal that would accomodate Peevey’s demand for the $25 million … yet amazingly, Stephanie Pincetl knew about the funds long before anyone else did. Full Story.
May 4, 2015: CPUC has spent $1.1 million thwarting Public Information Act Requests into fraud at the Commission. Aguirre & Severson have issued scores of PRA requests to CPUC, the California Public Utilities Commission. Now we know why they aren’t being answered; CPUC has hired private attorneys at public expense to run interference. Full Story.
May 2, 2015, Michel “Mike” Florio is a Commissioner at CPUC, the California Public Utilities Commission. This story by Jaxon Van Derbeken in the San Francisco Chronicle details how Florio met secretly with Edison honcho Ronald Litzinger to determine the “deal points” which would finalize the terms of a ratepayer-funded bailout of Edison’s failed nuclear plant at San Onofre.
As the result of these secret last-minute negotiations, Southern California Edison was given permission by CPUC to over-charge ratepayers for $3.3 billion in costs that should have been paid by Edsion’s stockholders. Get the Chronicle Story Here, and read why this story is important.
Edison has finally released 36 documents out of 2 million requested by Aguirre & Severson LLP. The documents strongly suggest deceit and obstruction of justice by the California Public Utilities Commission and Edison. Get the Full Story
April 30, 2015, New evidence suggests obstruction of justice by Southern California Edison and the California Public Utility Commission.
Today, Southern California Edison released a microscopic fraction of the more than 2-million pages of e-mails and internal documents leading up to the unlawful out-of-court settlement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating System (SONGS) failure.
Aguirre & Severson have long maintained that the settlement, which blatantly violates California Public Utility Commission rules, was crafted to hide the fact that Edison stripped vital safety equipment from its souped up nuclear generators. As a result, the generators, which failed after one year of use, were not licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. CPUC executives Peevey and Florio then worked diligently to prevent an investigation into whether or not it was “reasonable” for Edison to charge ratepayers for the costs of its unsafe design.
Aguirre & Severson’s Federal lawsuit on behalf of Citizen’s Oversight, challenges the “Imperial Powers” of the California Public Utilities Commission, (CPUC). At this time, CPUC is the only State bureaucracy not subject to judicial review. The Aguirre & Severson law suit has spurred Rendon to amend Assembly Bill 825 to compel outside review of CPUC authorized rate hikes. Full Story.
Press Conference, March 10, 2015
Today, Aguirre & Severson filed a petition in Superior Court to force the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to hold hearings to justify the hiring of its new $882-per-hour criminal defense attornies.
The law suit also asks the judge to require the CPUC to follow the Government Code by holding public proceedings to identify who at CPUC requested criminal defense services and to make findings as to whether those individuals are entitled to a publicly-paid lawyer. In addition, the lawsuit seeks to compel the production of records that have been properly sought but denied under the California Public Records Act. Get the media summary here.
U~T Commentary Sunday, February 29, 2015: Tackling the NFL Cartel. In this Sunday U~T San Diego Mike Aguirre of Aguirre & Severson, explains that the NFL is a cartel that uses “restraint of trade” to armtwist fans and local governments into paying too much. “In a competitive market” says Aguirre, “a new team would play in San Diego if the Chargers moved to L.A. However, the NFL acts as a cartel. It allocates markets and employs output restrictions …” Get the full commentary.
Press Advisory, February 16, 2015 SCE admits to plotting cover-up of nuclear failure at San Onofre
Southern California Edison (SCE) has made an official admission that it colluded with the president of the California Public Utilities Commission in a nuclear cover-up scheme. Full story.
Press Conference, Feb 9, 2015, 5PM
In a shocking admission, Southern California Edison has filed an ex parte notice nearly one year after secretly meeting in Warsaw Poland with the head of the CPUC. The alarming document shows that California Public Utility Commission president Michael Peevey is likely to have engaged in unlawful activities related to the San Onofre radiation leaks and coverup. Peevey was forced out of office after emails were discovered showing similar meetings with the president of Pacific Gas & Electric. Peevey was forced to leave the Commission after emails implicated him in a judge-fixing scheme related to the deadly San Bruno disaster. These documents are important because they suggest an admission by Southern California Edison that the utility was engaged in similar activities.
Read the Press Advisory. Get the Late-Filed Notice.
BREAKING NEWS: January 29, 2015:
The Department of Justice search warrant for the home of Michael Peevey and wife, Senator Carol Liu, is now public. The criminal nature of the warrant may explain why Michael Peevey exploded in rage at Mike Aguirre recently for asking too many questions about Peevey’s secret life. See the video of Peevey cursing at Mr. Aguirre here.
January 19, 2015: Los Angeles Daily News, Thomas D. Elias explains how the evidence of corruption at the California Public Utilities Commission has grown “so strong it would be dereliction of duty for prosecutors to ignore it.” He quotes Aguirre & Severson as saying “It’s been a swamp of dishonesty.” Full Story.
January 18, 2015, Sunday Edition: Get Jeff McDonald’s story on nuclear waste HERE. Watch McDonald’s video story HERE.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 15, 2015
Attorneys Maria Severson & Mike Aguirre challenge incoming California Public Utilities Commission President, Michael Picker to recognize that the biggest “safety issue” facing ratepayers is the corruption at CPUC. Today’s statement is in response to Commissioner Picker’s first public speech. Until Mr. Picker eliminates the corruption and excessively cozy relationships between his staff and investor-owned utilities, we will continue to see failed nuclear power plants and radiation leaks, deadly gasoline explosions such as those that occured at San Bruno, and death-dealing utility-caused wildfires. Get the FULL STORY.
January 12, 2015, NBC NEWS VIDEO, Gene Cubbison Reporting. Among the questions being raised by San Diego attorneys advocating for ratepayers is this: Why has newly installed CPUC President Michael Picker been deleting all of his emails older than 90 days? And would they reveal a pattern and practice that drove his predecessor out of the job?
January 12, 2015, ABC NEWS VIDEO: Investigative Reporter Melissa Mecija explains why Aguirre & Severson called for a forensic investigation of destroyed e-mails at California Public Utilities Commission.
January 12, 2015, KPBS Radio: Business Reporter Erik Anderson explains why CPUC’s policy of deleting e-mails is alarming to public advocates. Attorney Maria Severson has waited a year to gain access to alarming CPU e-mails that could have changed the outcome of electricity rate-setting hearings in Southern California.
January 12, 2015, KPBS RADIO, Erik Anderson reports on
PRESS RELEASE January 12, Press Conference. Get the NEW incriminating e-mails HERE.
For the demand that Picker comply with State law and sign an Ethics Pledge click here.
PRESS CONFERENCE: Monday JAN 12, 2015, 10AM – DETAILS
Sunday January 11, 2015: Aguirre & Severson’s ongoing probe of corruption at California Public Utilities Commission is covered in the January 11, U~T San Diego. The report, by Jeff McDonald, raises serious questions about destruction of evidence by incoming CPUC President Michael Picker.
January 8, 2015: Aguirre & Severson Publish their first Report of Malfeasance and Institutional Corruption at the California Public Utilities Commission. Get the full report here with photos of the people who are responsible for making you pay the highest electric rates in the contiguous United States.
December 29, KPBS: Maria Severson is interviewed on the ongoing corruption at CPUC, its effect on the proposed bailout of the San Onofre Nuclear Generators, and the ouster of Commission President Michael Peevey, who is under criminal indictment for his role in a judge-shopping scandal. Click below for the television interview, or click here for the full KPBS radio story.
Click here for more background on disgraced Public Utility Commission President, Michael Peevey.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Public Advocates Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson call on utility ratepayers to contact members of the California Senate to demand and end to the bailot of Southern California Edison. FULL STORY.
PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY, DECEMBER 26: UT story exposes how judges colluded with Southern California Edison to maintain artificially high electric rates for SDG&E customers by quashing an investigation into who was at fault and what went wrong. READ THE U-T STORY and read the press advisory.
Summary of Ex Parte (outside the Court) hearings between Public Utility Commission judges and top Southern California Edison executives. These documents show how utility commissioners and judges plotted to delay and eventually terminate hearings into whether or not charging ratepayers for electricity that was never delivered is reasonable. These outside the court meetings also show how CPUC and Southern California Edison met in secret to establish a three part agenda in concert with a stall and delay strategy to stop a public investigation of who at Southern California Edison was responsible for intentionally installing defective nuclear generators that risked the lives of an estimated 8 million Southern Californians.
DECEMBER 18, 2014: San Diego U-T, Logan Jenkins critiques pension reforms recommended by the Honorable Mike Aguirre, former City Attorney for the City of San Diego. Read an overview of the proposal HERE, or the Logan Jenkins article HERE.
December 16, 2014: Florio email hints at PUC corruption. This Los Angeles Times story suggests that Public Utilities Commissioner Michel “Mike” Florio worked secretly with big utilities to raise rates. Full Story.
December 15, 2014: Aguirre & Severson sue Southern California Edison on behalf of its customers to prevent the unlawful ratepayer-funded bailout brokered by Commissioner Michel Florio of the California Public Utilities Commission. Full Story.
Utilities commission assures Wall Street that profits will remain high.
November 19, 2014, San Diego Reader, CITY LIGHTS, by Don Bauder Research by Richard Ryder shows that California’s electric rates, especially Southern Califonia Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E), are the highest in the nation because of a California Public Utilities Commission that “assures Wall Street that profits will remain high” for electric utility investors who seek superior profits from buying stock in Southern California Edison. FULL STORY.
November 21, 2014, Orange County Register: Get the FULL STORY by Aaron Orlowski. It explains how the so-called “refund” that the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco voted on yesterday is actually a $3.3 Billion bill that will be paid by customers (or perhaps more accurately “victims”” of Southern California Edison. San Diego Gas & Electric was a reluctant participant in the failed nuke overhaul at San Onofre, but SDG&E customers will be forced to pay the outrageous charges as the result of the Commission’s anti-consumer voting.
Press Advisory: Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Aguirre & Severson urge Southern California Edison and SDG&E customers to contact their elected officials prior to key vote tomorrow, November 20 in San Francisco.
NEWS ARTICLES updated November 17
QUITE THE GRAND LARCENY IF PROVEN TRUE, San Diego Reader
Whose Utilities Commission is it anway?, U-T San Diego
Lawsuit Alleges Phantom Billing, U-T San Diego
November 16, 2014 — FULL STORY AT U-T SAN DIEGO. On Thursday, the San Diego Law firm of Aguirre & Severson sucessfully filed a Federal Lawsuit against Southern California Edison (SCE) and two of California’s most powerful Public Utility Commissioners for violating the constitutional rights of SCE and SDG&E ratepayers by taking money without just compensation. This article, by U-T San Diego reporter Jeff McDonald was originallly published online with the headline “Whose Utility Commission is it anyway?
Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson are the trial attorneys who are representing Citizens Oversight, Southern California Edison victims and SDG&E customers in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutional authority of the California Public Utilities Commissioners to make secret back room deals with big utilities and then charge you for electricity you never received in a multi-billion dollar bailout. Under a proposed settlement brokered by disgraced Commissioners Peevey and Florio — who will be voting for the Bailout on Thursday, November 20, 2014, — Southern California citizens will be forced to pay an average of $269.00 each, or roughly $1,000.00 per meter for nuclear electricity they never used. The Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution protcts you from being forced to pay for something you never receive. This legal concept is known as Just Compensation.
November 15, 2014 – FULL STORY AT U-T SAN DIEGO . When four unauthorized and newly designed nuclear generators failed at San Onofre, California regulators supressed their own internal investigation into the scandal which put as many as 8-million lives at risk.
On Thursday, the consumer law firm of Aguirre & Severson filed a “Just Compensation” law suit in Federal court asserting that California Public Utilities Commission officials Mike Florio and Michael Peevey worked with Southern California Edison (SCE) to deny utility customers of their constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights. The Federal suit challenges the constitutional authority of the California Public Utilities Commissioners to make secret back room deals with big utilities and then charge utility customers (that’s you) for bailing out SCE at your expense on the grounds of “just compensation.”
KUSI Prime Time News, May 14, 2014: Mike Aguirre fights coverup. Investigative reporter Michael Turko exposes shows how the phony settlement hearingsscheduled in San Francisco this afternoon are meant to thwart a legally-required investigation of Southern California Edison’s decision to install nuclear equipment the utility knew was a new and dangerous design.
San Diego Union Tribune, May 11, 2014, Who pays for a worthless power plant? This story explains how billions of ratepayer dollars are at stake as opposed to thephony claims of $1.4 Billion in refunds.
San Diego Union Tribune, May 10, 2014, Nuclear deal slams consumers. Veteranenergy and business reporter Dan McSwain estimates a total bill for the bailout atmore than $13.6 billion (roughly $1,400 per electric meter on average), saying “It’s hard to argue that consumers should pay a nickel for it.”
San Diego Reader, May 8, 2014: Electricity Refund? Not in California. Don Bauder exposes how TURN, the Utility Reform Network, teamed up with its friends at the California Public Utility Commission to sell a massiveutility bailout program as a “refund.”
Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2014: Battle over San Onofre gaining steam. This story corrects an erroneous LA Times story promoted heavily by TURN which states fraudulently that the proposed settlement delivers $1.4 billion in “refunds.” It explains that if the proposed secret settlement is approved, at least $3.3 billion of the costs of San onofre will be paid by you, the ratepayer.
CBS News 8 San Diego, May 6, 2014: San Onofre Settlement will end up costing the public. Reporter Richard Allyn covers an event where prominent consumer advocates are calling TURN, The Utility Reform Network a “Judas” that “Stabbed ratepayers in the back” for making false public claims that consumers are getting “$1.4 million in refunds.” The true story is that the secretly negotiated settlement will actually cost ratepayers hundreds of dollars per electric meter in the SCE / SDG&E service area (roughly $500 per meter).
Los Angeles Daily News, May 5, 2014: PUC Kabuki dance extends to San Onofre Thomas Elias compares the monstrous natural gas disaster at San Bruno, which was caused by lax regulation, to San Onofre, comparing it to kabuki, where the results of investigations and hearings are scripted in favor of the big utilities who profit fromthe largesse of do-nothing regulators at the Public Utility Commission.
Los Angeles Business Journal, May 5, 2014: Customers pay for San Onofre fail Scott Bridges explains in an interview with Mike Aguirre how this deal doesn’trefund $1.4 billion, rather it will cost $3.3 billion.
Orange County Register, April 21, 2014: Closing San Onofre to cost $3.3 billion Reporter Tom Berg interviews Mike Aguirre to illustrate how a $4.7 billion debt hasbeen fraudulently portrayed as a $1.4 billion refund by utilities, the CPUC, and the alleged advocates at TURN, The Utility Reform Network.
KUSI Prime Time News, May 2, 2014: San Onofre Settlement: No Victory at all! Investigative reporter Michael Turko exposes the sham settlement which is designed to prevent an investigation into wrongdoing by Southern California Edison.
San Diego Union Tribune, April 18, 2014, Nuke Plant to cost customers $3.3B This story by Morgan Lee corrects a previous UT story touting $1.4 billion in refundsand clarifies that not only will there be no “refunds” but that if the proposed settlementis approved it will cost consumers $3.3 Billion.
KUSI News, April 14, 2014: Refund sparks uncertainty Reporter Kristen Cusato interviews Mike Aguirre, who explains that the utilities are playing a shell game with the consumers’ money and why reports of a $1.4 billion refund are fraudulent.
Scroll down, or click here for the original opinion as published be the Editors of the Wall Street Journal.
A San Diego Retirement
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Updated Sept. 6, 2008 12:01 a.m. ET
Unfunded public employee pensions are a crisis waiting to erupt across the country, so a political brawl in San Diego is worth watching. In a welcome change, a public official is looking out for taxpayers rather than for unionized public workers.
San Diego first disclosed huge funding shortfalls in its public pension plan six years ago. Officials have since been charged with fraud by the SEC, the city has had its bond rating slashed, and both the IRS and the SEC have demanded changes in the way the city’s pensions are administered. Yet the generous pension benefits that were handed out by the derelict politicians and triggered the crisis remain in place — a billion-dollar liability hanging over city taxpayers for decades to come.
This summer, San Diego’s mayor succeeded in negotiating a reduction in retirement benefits for city employees — but only for new hires, starting in 2009. The deal left the benefits negotiated in 1996 and 2002 untouched, and both city politicians and unions say those bennies are “sacrosanct.” They include 50,000 years of pension credit for time not served that the city all but gave away, as well as a provision that allowed employees to take early retirement and a deferred-retirement program at the same time.
San Diego’s contributions to the pension fund have quadrupled in recent years, and the fund is still $1.2 billion in the hole. California state law caps property tax levies. So San Diego has paid for the increased contributions by deferring road maintenance, and skimping on library funding and municipal recreation programs. And the city is still falling further behind.
The garden at this skunk party is City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who has made himself very unpopular with the political establishment by suing to rescind the 1996 and 2002 pension promises. Though a liberal Democrat normally sympathetic to unions, he says the benefits were granted as part of “the largest municipal securities fraud in American history,” and so taxpayers shouldn’t have to honor them.
As for the mayor’s recent deal on future benefits, Mr. Aguirre says “that might save us $22 million 40 years from now.” By contrast, he figures he can shave $900 million off the $1.2 billion deficit if he prevails in court. His case was tossed out of trial court but is now under appeal.
The battle has been so contentious that one member of the City Council and a local judge both attempted to unseat Mr. Aguirre in a primary earlier this year. Judge Jan Goldsmith won the primary, but Mr. Aguirre, who came in second, will get a rematch in November’s runoff. Mr. Aguirre, who used to represent victims of Ponzi schemes in private practice, says these pension giveaways are the same beast. “But unlike most Ponzi schemes, this one is financed with taxpayer dollars,” he says.
The same goes for elsewhere around the country, where politicians have also padded pensions to buy union support, knowing that the bills will come due long after they’ve left office. In New York state, Albany has been granting expensive retirement benefits for years on the basis of cost estimates prepared by a actuary being paid by the same unions who stand to benefit from the increases. And in New Jersey, state lawmakers shortchanged the public pension funds in the 1990s by rewriting the accounting rules to make it look like they were fully funded.
Taxpayers in those states need a rabble-rouser like Mr. Aguirre willing to stand up to union interests. The San Diego attorney faces a tough re-election battle in November, but he’s setting off an alarm that voters across America need to hear.