Appellate Court Set To Hear Retroactive Pension Case

Lawyers for Orange County and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs will square off again tomorrow in a Los Angeles courtroom in the long-running retroactive pension case.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal will hear the county’s argument that the 2001 granting of a retroactive pension benefit to sheriff’s deputies was both a violation of the state constitution’s provisions on debt limits and an illegal gift of public funds because it gave retired deputies extra pay for work they had already performed.

This argument failed in Los Angeles Superior Court, and, according to the deputies union, has cost county taxpayers more than $2.2 million and could end up costing more than $5 million.

County officials — most notably Supervisor John Moorlach — have said the case is worth it both on principal and cost because if the county wins, taxpayers will save as much as $187 million in pension payouts.

One thing to keep an eye on is the role of former Moorlach chief of staff Mario Mainero, who will be privately advising county attorneys. County Chief Executive Tom Mauk took flack last month for hiring Mainero — who masterminded the case before leaving last year for Chapman University — to help with the appeal.

Deputies union leaders in particular questioned why the county needed Mainero’s help in December, after lawyers had filed their pleadings with the appellate court.

The appellate court should hear the entirety of the arguments Wednesday and then have 90 days to render a verdict.

We’ll keep tabs on the day in court and let you know if anything interesting happens.