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Court overrules Prop. B ruling, upholds union complaint

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A California court of appeals overturned Tuesday a trial court ruling that halted a legal challenge to Proposition B prior to the primary election, when the pension reform measure won overwhelming voter approval.

The legal challenge by the state Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) on behalf of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA), the city’s white-collar labor union, will now go forward despite the city’s objections.

The legal challenge relates to the MEA’s claim that the involvement of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilmen Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer in the proposition constitute city support of the pension reform initiative, and thereby is subject to negotiations with city labor unions.

Because no negotiations ever took place, the MEA alleges an unfair practices charge against the city.

PERB, on behalf of MEA, initially requested the Superior Court remove Prop. B from the June ballot due to the pending legal challenge. The court denied PERB’s motion, and the state labor body prepared to undergo administrative proceedings between the MEA and the city.

The city then requested relief from that process, alleging that PERB’s request for adversarial relief against the city rendered it unable to act as a neutral arbiter between the two parties. The court upheld the city’s request.

Tuesday’s ruling by the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal found the trial court’s ruling was in error and issued a new ruling denying the city’s request.

The administrative process will now resume, and will be followed by a trial on the lawsuits pending against the measure.

DeMaio quickly issued a statement saying he anticipated the appellate court ruling and courts would ultimately rule on MEA’s legal complaint.

“Despite efforts to block pension reform by the government unions and their allies in the state bureaucracy, I am absolutely confident that Prop. B will withstand all legal challenges and San Diego taxpayers will get the pension reform they have so long waited for," his statement read.

The court ruled against the city’s request for injunctive relief on a number of fronts.

It emphasized PERB had the exclusive jurisdiction over the MEA’s claim that the city violated its obligation to meet and confer with its labor unions, countering the claim that the state body had sacrificed its neutrality by taking on the complaint.

“The fact PERB elects to seek temporary injunctive relief to preserve the status quo does not automatically compromise PERB’S neutrality when it hears the merits of the unfair practices charge,” the ruling reads. “Indeed, City’s argument — if credited — would effectively strip PERB of its statutorily enumerated power.”

The court also dismissed the city’s claims that being subject to the administrative process would delay the implementation of Prop. B, saying the city failed to demonstrate how the delay would be greater than through litigating the dispute alone.

“City’s argument … is not supported in logic or case law, and appears inconsistent with the statutory scheme,” the ruling reads. “We therefore reject this argument.”

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