Goldsmith goes to court to force pension fund contributions

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is seeking a court order to force the San Diego City Employees Retirement System to require that its members contribute more into the pension plan to make up for investment and other losses, it was announced Tuesday.

Goldsmith maintains the city and employees are legally “equal partners” in funding San Diego’s pension plan.

In a writ filed in San Diego Superior Court on Monday, Goldsmith cites a provision of the city charter stating that the “city shall contribute annually an amount substantially equal to that required of the employees for normal retirement allowances, as certified by the actuary, but shall not be required to contribute in excess of that amount.”

SDCERS did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment on Goldsmith’s judicial request.

In taking the legal action, Goldsmith is asking a judge to enforce the language in the city charter.

A statement from the City Attorney’s Office says the board “has refused to apply charter section 143 as written and has, instead, decided that the city is solely responsible for extra funding needed to make up for investment and other losses in order to ensure that retirement allowances can be paid.”

The action comes on the heels of an outside legal opinion Goldsmith released last month that he says backs up his assertion that SDCERS and the city should be equal contributors in pension obligations.

Goldsmith said his “equal partners” argument would not only apply in times of mounting investment losses at SDCERS, such as now, but also when profits are being made.

Mounting investment losses amid the national recession, along with decisions in 1996 and 2002 by the city to underfund the pension fund, have saddled SDCERS with a deficit of at least $2 billion.

The city’s contribution into the pension system this year is about $230 million. City officials said last year San Diego’s annual required contribution into the pension system could grow to $318 million by fiscal year 2015.