Judge rules against Ventura County pension reform ballot initiative

Pension fundBy George Miller

The latest:

Superior Court of CA Ventura County Judge Kent M. Kellegrew ruled against putting the planned pension reform initiative, which would have phased out defined benefit pensions in favor of 401K style plans, on the November county election ballot. The initiative was designed to end the current taxpayer-funded, virtually unlimited liability to the County plan and replace it with a defined contribution approach (401K) which most of private industry has already shifted to. He said the ruling had nothing to do with whether or not retirement plans should be revised, but that it was not permissible to decide it via a County ballot initiative.

The judge stayed enforcement of his ruling until August 14th, to give the supporters a chance to appeal before reaching the final deadline for printing the November ballots later this month.”

Summary “Minute order” …..


More on Case # 56-2014-00454309-CUWM-VTA

Lacy v Mark Lunn judicial ruling: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1252622/1494644-final-ruling-trial-court.pdf


The County Supervisors, who personally benefit from the current plan, but who would not be affected by the initiative’s phasing in of the new scheme, are 4-1 against reform, with only Supervisor Peter Foy favoring it, because he believes it is the only sane approach to fiscal soundness. In spite of that, Supervisors voted in June to put it on the ballot, though they had doubts that the initiative was legal, but awaited judicial ruling on it.

Government employee unions and Democrats generally favor defined benefit plans. Republicans, Conservatives, Libertarians and business generally oppose it. In the 2012 election debates, Supervisor Bennett gave us the impression he would be willing to consider a switch for new employees, but when push came to shove, he opted for the status quo.

Ventura County Taxpayers Association (VCTA), a private, nonprofit public interest organization, took an interest in pensions long ago as one of the largest County financial land mines.  They tried to persuade County government to change it, to no avail, so they sponsored the initiative, which easily gathered voter signatures to be put on the ballot, over strong opposition from vested interests and municipal entitlement advocates. VCTA claimed that “the only fiscal analysis available found that there would be $460 million saved in the first 15 years and that pension liability would be reduced by $1.8 Billion.”  A competing analysis claimed much lower savings, but savings nonetheless. Ventura County Supervisor said that there will be an announcement on this Wednesday, August 6.

About municipal pensions

Conversations with Neal Andrews – Ep 133 – Public Pension Reform from CAPS-TV on Vimeo.

What is a Defined Benefit Plan?

Municipal employee retirement plans have traditionally been “defined benefit,” meaning a virtually guaranteed income for retirees, UNLESS the municipality or plan goes bust (as in the case of Detroit or Stockton)and even then, they will often attempt to make good upon it by going to taxpayers for more money. Taxpayers, who mostly have no such guarantees for their own retirement, increasingly object to funding a privileged class of entitlees, in this case their own employees.

What is a Defined Contribution Plan?

Most businesses which offer retirement plans now do so via a 401K type approach, which consists of individual employee accounts in a company organized plan, usually independently managed and administered, containing risk-mitigating investment rules, with both employee and employer contribution options, with vesting rules favoring employment longevity. These accounts can be combinations of fixed and variable financial instruments, which might consist of CD’s, money market, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc. Some plans have minimum return and principal guarantees.  Even so, there is some risk, which might be addressed by a different form of insurance.  The County pension plan is said by defined benefit plan opponents to already be $1 billion underfunded.


Democrat Judge Kellegrew was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis in 1999. He is up for reelection this year. Judges very rarely lose elections, especially when they have no opponents (automatically wins- not on ballot). [email protected]. Ratings

Local activist comments

Ventura activist Carla Bonney, who was one of the proponents of the Ventura parking meter initiative, which was similarly derailed, felt the pension ruling was something to be questioned. She said it reminded her of the court situation for the parking case, where the judge had already made up his mind before anyone even walked into the courtroom and didn’t even give it a hearing. “While I’m not familiar with all the legal details, I think that since Ventura County has held its own pension system, and not acting under the state pension system, so it potentially isn’t bound by state law,” she said.”Maybe the ruling is invalid.” She was unsure when interviewed whether it would be appealed and awaits a legal opinion on that. It was her impression that this ruling would disallow any vote on the issue this year. She commented that she did some research on Judge Kellegrew.  Bonney noticed his political orientation, which tended to be more on the side of unions.  And, she said she had read quite a few postings with complaints regarding his rulings.

Others said if the County entered the plan voluntarily, then it should be able to withdraw similarly, especially since it wouldn’t affect people already into the plan. There was some dispute of this (from ruling):


Versus this (more familiar):

Declaration abolish

Previous relevant articles:























More background:










George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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Citizen Reporter

Statement by David P. Grau and Dick Thomson (VCTA)

“People have the right to petition their government. It is a bedrock principle of our democracy, and this flawed ruling silences the voice of tens of thousands of Venturans who desired nothing more than the right to be heard. It is appalling to be stripped of this opportunity. For the unions to sue to deny an election is troubling proof of their fear of public opinion. That a judge enabled it is even worse. While we will not pursue further litigation in Ventura, we plan to take our spirit of reform statewide. Nothing ends here.”

Grau is the Chairman of the Ventura County Taxpyers Association. Thomson is the President.

Citizen Reporter

VCTA will not appeal the ruling to block pension reform from this year’s ballot but resolved to pursue pension reform in the future.