Pension dispute almost settled today

2013-08-28T11:30:00Z 2013-08-30T09:27:04Z Pension dispute almost settled todayDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The two sides in a lawsuit over whether an initiative overhauling the city pension system should appear on the November ballot are close to resolving their dispute and letting the voters decide the issue.

But final resolution will depend on the attorney for the Committee for Sustainable Retirement Benefits agreeing to drop an appeal of a judge's decision to throw out over 5,000 petition signatures.

And at this point, the attorney is unwilling to officially forego that option.

The two sides met by phone in Pima County Superior Court Judge James Marner’s courtroom with an apparent resolution in hand.

But Lisa Hauser, the attorney for the Committee for Sustainable Retirement Benefits, balked at the last minute.

She said Marner needed to assure her he would lift the injunction and let the ballot initiative move forward before she could agree to drop her appeal.

But, in a bit of a catch-22, Marner said his hands were tied and couldn’t make any determination until both sides agreed to withdraw their appeals.

Earlier this month, Marner disqualified over 5,000 signatures and ordered city and county election officials to recalculate the remaining ones.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by two city employees over a proposition that would overhaul the city’s current retirement system and convert it to a 401(k)-style plan.

Back in July, the employees filed suit asking for the removal of more than 10,000 signatures because either felons or unregistered out-of-state circulators collected many of them.

Marner dumped some, let others stay and then ordered the city clerk and Pima County recorder to run the numbers again based on the new figures.

While final numbers haven’t been calculated, the City Clerk’s Office determined a total of 5,651 signatures were invalidated by Marner’s earlier ruling.

And that was enough to convince the plaintiffs to drop their appeal, at least at the Superior Court level.

If the same percentages were applied from the previous random sample, said plaintiff’s attorney Roopali Desai, the initiative would have around 500 more signatures than the minimum 12,730 required to make it on the ballot.

Since it appeared the initiative is likely to have a sufficient number of signatures, Desai said, the plaintiffs were willing to drop their appeal and let the initiative move forward.

With such a short time frame to file an appeal to a higher court, Desai reasoned, there’s no benefit to prolonging the fight in Superior Court.

The possibility for a resolution today still exists.

Marner said his schedule was open if Hauser changed her mind

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Arizona Daily Star's Government blog includes stories and related items from Tucson and Pima County written by Star reporters Darren DaRonco and Jamar Younger.

Have a government-related topic you would like to see in the blog or suggestions? Email Darren DaRonco at ddaronco@tucson.com and Jamar Younger at jyounger@tucson.com

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