Stanislaus County leaders want to help defend a retirement board from a lawsuit brought by upset retirees.
The county wasn't named in the December lawsuit against the Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association. But no one disputes that the retirement board's controversial $60 million decision in April helped saved the county's financial bacon, so county supervisors want in on the court fight.
Behind closed doors Tuesday, supervisors voted unanimously to ask a judge to let them join the defense camp.
"The county has an interest in making sure StanCERA's decisions are upheld," County Counsel John Doering said after the closed session. "That's why we're joining the lawsuit."
At stake are retiree benefits that were compromised in the spring when StanCERA moved money among funds to protect the struggling county from a multimillion-dollar hemorrhage.
Three members of Retired Employees of Stanislaus County sued, saying StanCERA's first responsibility is to its 2,800 members, not the county, the retirement system's major contributor.
StanCERA administers retirement benefits for employees of the county, Ceres, the Superior Court and certain special districts. Doering's office withdrew as StanCERA's legal counsel in October.
The county and retirement board contend that the transferred money came from a fund that pays for benefits that were not guaranteed for the pensioners. Without the transfers, the county would be forced to lay off more workers and further slash public services, they say.
The county faces a $20 million deficit in the next fiscal year starting July 1, officials say.
A Bee review last month revealed that most of the system's top 50 pensioners are paid more in retirement than when they worked, thanks to spiking, or using vacation cash-outs and other compensation to boost retirement pay. A majority of retirement board members sought to hide details on 50 annual pensions greater than $100,000 before a judge sided with The Bee in a public records lawsuit.
A court date for the retirees' lawsuit is scheduled April 12.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.