Boxes of signatures in support of pension reform stacked at the San Diego City Clerk's office on Sept. 30, 2011.
A move to block the San Diego's Comprehensive Pension Reform initiative from going to the voters was rejected Tuesday by a Superior Court judge.
He ruled that a legal challenge should await the results of the city's June 5 primary election.
The court filing, seeking a preliminary injunction, was brought by the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which has found the city in violation of state labor laws in the process of moving the pension measure to the ballot.
But Judge William Dato said there's no established "case law" that allows him to block an initiative from going to the voters on the basis of the state PERB's findings.
The pension measure, which qualified with a record 115,000 voters' signatures, would replace traditional pensions with 401(k)-style retirement plans for all future city employees except police officers.
It also calls for the city seek a five-year salary freeze from current workers.
The city's largest labor union, the Municipal Employees Association (MEA), had complained to the PERB that the mayor and city officials were improperly involved in crafting and promoting the measure, as a means of circumventing required collective bargaining procedures.
The first step in hearing process on PERB’s concurrence with that complaint, to be conducted before a state administrative law judge, begins in Glendale later this week.
"It's clear that the city violated its obligations under the law," said MEA general manager Michael Zucchet. "That's what the administrative agency is going to find. The judge wasn't able to predetermine that today -- perhaps correctly. But that doesn't mean that's not going to be the end result in a few months from now."
"I admire their sense of optimism," laughed T.J. Zane, president of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, and an intervenor in the case on behalf of the initiative's backers.
"(The measure) will see lawsuits all the way through to implementation; this was just one of many to come," Zane added. "We know the government unions will do everything they can to try to block implementation. But we're just elated today that the judge saw the wisdom of moving it to the election in June."
Meantime, another judge's ruling is pending on a second pre-election challenge to the initiative, filed by mayoral candidate Hud Collins.
He argues claims the measure, framed as an amendment to the City Charter, actually is an improper, widespread revision of the charter.
For more on the issues facing this year's mayoral race, check out our Decision 2012 page here.