Mayoral candidate and current District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said today she opposes the Republican push to convert all new city of San Diego employees except police from guaranteed pensions to a 401(k) plan.

Her stance offers the first major Republican dissent to a compromise plan struck between different party factions. It ensures that the 401(k) ballot measure, slated for the same June 2012 primary that will feature what is shaping up to be a star-studded mayoral race, won’t simply be a battle between the GOP and employee unions.

The compromise measure includes switching firefighters to the 401(k) plan, one of its most controversial features. That was a deciding factor for Dumanis, who said she can’t support a plan that doesn’t exempt police, firefighters and lifeguards.


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“I am a strong supporter of pension reform,” she said in an email to us. “However, it is my core belief that those who put their lives at risk daily in the line of duty should have a secure pension.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Kevin Faulconer originally pushed a plan that exempted public safety members. A competing proposal from Councilman Carl DeMaio and business groups would’ve moved all employees to the 401(k) plan. The two sides eventually put together a compromise plan that exempts just police and attempts to freeze employee play in order to whittle away at the city’s smothering pension liabilities.

Here’s Dumanis’ full statement, which she sent to our Scott Lewis in response to his post last week breaking down the district attorney’s conundrum:

It is clear that pension reform in San Diego is vital to our fiscal recovery. I am a strong supporter of pension reform. However, it is my core belief that those who put their lives at risk daily in the line of duty should have a secure pension. I appreciate the enormous amount of work that has gone into the proposed compromise ballot measure by the Mayor, Council members and business leaders who have participated in the process, but I can’t support a measure that doesn’t exempt police, firefighters and lifeguards from a 401k pension plan. When it comes to public safety we must be competitive to attract and retain the very best. There are other ways to address the fiscal impacts for public safety. Some of these have already been implemented.

The decision sets up a new level of intrigue in the race to replace Sanders. Dumanis and the mayor, a former police chief, have long been strong political allies. If he endorsed her, he would be supporting somebody who opposes one of his signature efforts.

Dumanis’s stand also places her squarely against her own party. As Lewis wrote last week:

First, it’s going to be difficult for any Republican to go against the plan. They’ll be pummeled by DeMaio, Faulconer and the body of newly fired up Republican activism in San Diego.

The news further highlights the burgeoning contrast between San Diego’s established, institutional Republicans and the more aggressive wing led by Councilman Carl DeMaio and party Chairman Tony Krvaric. Dumanis’s campaign also said today that she wouldn’t seek the endorsement of the firefighters union.

Next up: Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. The Republican hasn’t formally announced his candidacy but faces a similar decision, to stake out a more centrist position or go along with DeMaio and Faulconer, who are also believed to be running.

You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526. Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

    This article relates to: Election, Government, Mayor 2012, News

    Written by Andrew Donohue

    14 comments
    William Waugaman
    William Waugaman subscriber

    I get no overtime, it got eliminated last year.

    The_Gunny
    The_Gunny

    I get no overtime, it got eliminated last year.

    Michael Russell
    Michael Russell subscriber

    Having worked in pubic service all my life, and specifically for the City of San Diego Lifeguard service, I know just how much these people get paid. The full time administrators do not risk their lives on a daily basis, and get Salaries and Benefits that are well over 100K/year, often breaking the $250K/year barrier. I don't think that anyone in public service needs to make more than FIVE TIMES THE AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME OF THE PEOPLE THEY SERVE. Firefighters work two days per week, sleep, eat, and exercise on the job, and get to assign their own overtime. I met a Police Lt. recently that admitted to earning $390K/year as a 34 year veteran, including his deferred pension and benefits. When I asked how he could justify such a huge salary, he said "You get the benefit of my experience." But we can't even hire new police to replace him.

    philosopher3000
    philosopher3000

    Having worked in pubic service all my life, and specifically for the City of San Diego Lifeguard service, I know just how much these people get paid. The full time administrators do not risk their lives on a daily basis, and get Salaries and Benefits that are well over 100K/year, often breaking the $250K/year barrier. I don't think that anyone in public service needs to make more than FIVE TIMES THE AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME OF THE PEOPLE THEY SERVE. Firefighters work two days per week, sleep, eat, and exercise on the job, and get to assign their own overtime. I met a Police Lt. recently that admitted to earning $390K/year as a 34 year veteran, including his deferred pension and benefits. When I asked how he could justify such a huge salary, he said "You get the benefit of my experience." But we can't even hire new police to replace him.

    Linda Colley
    Linda Colley subscriber

    Dumanis is running for Mayor, so what is her PLAN. I'm not interested in speeches, I'm not interested in "party" posturing. I'm not interested in candidates who represent old stereo-types of either party. I'm interested in a candidate who can accomplish a task in 1 term.

    RealityCheckLinda
    RealityCheckLinda

    Dumanis is running for Mayor, so what is her PLAN. I'm not interested in speeches, I'm not interested in "party" posturing. I'm not interested in candidates who represent old stereo-types of either party. I'm interested in a candidate who can accomplish a task in 1 term.

    Dale Peterson
    Dale Peterson subscribermember

    And, her defense of the system (judge and prosecutor) that encouraged modest sentancing (despite the stern warning from a psychiatrist) for the intial assualts on a teen neighbor, by John Gardner, are disturbing. She listens to those who are in her tight little world. She doesn't listen to those she considers to be outsiders.

    Dale Peterson
    Dale Peterson

    And, her defense of the system (judge and prosecutor) that encouraged modest sentancing (despite the stern warning from a psychiatrist) for the intial assualts on a teen neighbor, by John Gardner, are disturbing. She listens to those who are in her tight little world. She doesn't listen to those she considers to be outsiders.

    Jeffry Stevens
    Jeffry Stevens subscribermember

    This will cause some badly-needed debate on this initiative. A defined contribution plan can provide as good a retirement income as a defined benefit plan if enough money is contributed and it is well-managed. So far we have not seen any projections of how much retirement income the proposed plan will provide. There hasn't even been a decision on whether new employees will enter Social Security. Social Security plus a 3% match as has been discussed is not going to be enough. The proponents of the initiative need to define how the plan will be structured and managed and what benefits it will provide.

    JffStevens
    JffStevens

    This will cause some badly-needed debate on this initiative. A defined contribution plan can provide as good a retirement income as a defined benefit plan if enough money is contributed and it is well-managed. So far we have not seen any projections of how much retirement income the proposed plan will provide. There hasn't even been a decision on whether new employees will enter Social Security. Social Security plus a 3% match as has been discussed is not going to be enough. The proponents of the initiative need to define how the plan will be structured and managed and what benefits it will provide.

    dave stutz
    dave stutz subscribermember

    Dumanis and her political consultant spent full time to come to a position that would be in her best interest and further her political career. Unfortunately this is how she made every decision as the DA, an office where politics should never enter the decision making process. She is bored as DA and lets the office run itself. She is way over her head, doesn't know the issues and won't be able to raise the money needed. Unfortunately we are stuck with her for 3 more years!

    dave stutz
    dave stutz

    Dumanis and her political consultant spent full time to come to a position that would be in her best interest and further her political career. Unfortunately this is how she made every decision as the DA, an office where politics should never enter the decision making process. She is bored as DA and lets the office run itself. She is way over her head, doesn't know the issues and won't be able to raise the money needed. Unfortunately we are stuck with her for 3 more years!

    Brian Flynn
    Brian Flynn subscriber

    Well, at least Bonnie knows that a 401K only pension system is illegal in california, and has been ruled against by the IRS in other cities. I wonder what it would be like if the City Attorney knew the laws?

    Tolerant1
    Tolerant1

    Well, at least Bonnie knows that a 401K only pension system is illegal in california, and has been ruled against by the IRS in other cities. I wonder what it would be like if the City Attorney knew the laws?