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San Diego D.A. drops charges against last defendant in pension case

May 5, 2010 |  3:29 pm

The San Diego County district attorney moved Wednesday to dismiss charges against the last of six former members of the San Diego pension board still accused of conflict of interest in the city's pension debacle.

The California Supreme Court in January dismissed charges against five of the defendants but said the case, filed in 2005, could proceed against longtime firefighters union official Ron Saathoff.

In dropping charges against Saathoff, Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis said she still believes that the six were guilty of conflict of interest by voting for a proposal to increase city pensions -- including their own -- while allowing the city to decrease the amount it contributed to the pension fund.

The plan, endorsed by the San Diego City Council, depended on a rising stock market to keep the pension fund flush. When the market dropped, the fund was hit by a rising deficit.

Amid a media-driven furor over the deficit that dominated local politics for several years, the city, county and federal prosecutors all went to court -- none successfully.

In 2006, U.S. Atty. Carol Lam filed charges against five members of the pension board. Those charges, arising from a grand jury indictment, were thrown out last month by a federal judge, although prosecutors have indicated they plan to appeal.

City Atty. Michael Aguirre filed lawsuits seeking to have the pension increases ruled illegal. So far, the suits have not succeeded in having the pensions reduced.

Of the three prosecutors, only Dumanis is still in office.

Lam was forced out by the Bush administration in 2007 for reasons unrelated to the city pension issue. Aguirre was defeated for reelection in 2008 by a Superior Court judge, Jan Goldsmith, who promised a less litigious approach to the city's pension and budget problems.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego