The article by Adam Ashton, published in the Sacramento Bee on March 17th, is alarming on many levels, in light of the upcoming California Supreme Court hearing of the Appeals Court decision in MAPE versus MCERA.
Ashley Dunning, counsel to MCERA, represented them in that case.
Part of the Appeals Court decision opened up the possibility of changing future (prospective) pension benefits in order to allow for sustainability in the current public sector pension system. It would allow government entities to make changes in order to remain solvent, thus avoiding the stresses we now see in cities, counties and special districts throughout the state – stresses that sometimes result in bankruptcies.
A quote from the Appeals Court decision opened up the possibility for that important means of avoiding fiscal calamity: "While a public employee does have a 'vested right' to a pension, that right is only to a 'reasonable' pension -- not an immutable entitlement to the most optimal formula of calculating the pension," wrote Associate Justice James Richman.
Another portion of the decision states: "Short of actual abolition, a radical reduction of benefits, or a fiscally unjustifiable increase in employee contributions," changes can be made up until the time the worker retires.
In her interview for the position of special counsel to the CalPERS Board of Administration, when asked, Dunning voiced her “strong support for the California Rule. The second attorney, from another firm, admitted to opposing it.
Dunning got the position, leaving open the question of how this will play in her arguments before the California Supreme Court in defense of the Appeals Court decision.
I think Ms Denning and her firm’s success in winning the role of special counsel to the Board of Administration position was well timed and strategically decided by CalPERS.