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Orange County Sheriffs hit the streets in protest

by Michael Webster Syndicated Investigative Repo Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 at 10:20 PM
mvwsr@aol.com 949 494-7121

The lawsuit has drawn the attention of law enforcement unions across the country because a ruling in favor of the county could unravel pension benefits granted to law enforcement officers nationwide.



By Michael Webster: Syndicated Investigative Reporter. Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 8:oo PM PST

Orange County Sheriffs Deputies are angry that they've worked for nearly a year without a contract. So they hit the streets marching with their signs in a silent protest while they exit the Hall of Administration in Santa Ana California following a meeting of the Orange County Board of Supervisors who control there future.

Earlier today an Los Angeles Superior court judge ruled in the sheriff's favor by issuing a potentially deadly blow to the county of Orange in its long-standing lawsuit seeking to rescind generous retirement benefits granted to deputy sheriffs in 2001.

The lawsuit has drawn the attention of law enforcement unions across the country because a ruling in favor of the county could unravel pension benefits granted to law enforcement officers nationwide.

Judge Helen Bendix, in a tentative ruling late Tuesday, granted the Orange County sheriff's deputies' motion for dismissal. A final hearing is scheduled for Friday. If Bendix's thinking remains unchanged, it could spell the end of the county's legal challenge, which has already cost taxpayers more than .5 million in fees.

County Supervisor John Moorlach led the charge on the issue, persuading other supervisors to sue in January 2008.

Known as "3 at 50," the benefit was adopted by county supervisors in 2001 and allows deputies to retire early while also granting them increased benefits. An actuarial study concludes that the benefit adds 7 million to the county's unfunded pension liability, now hovering above the billion mark.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs has argued since the lawsuit was initiated that it was meritless and was generating millions in legal bills for taxpayers. They have said that several law firms told supervisors their strategy was a long shot and criticized the county for continuing with the lawsuit.

Orange County supervisors have argued that the benefit violates the state constitution's limits on debts – because of the obligation incurred – and because the 3 at 50 benefit was granted retroactively.

Yet in this tentative ruling, Judge Helen Bendix came down on the side of the deputies by rejecting both of the county's arguments, granting two separate AOCDS motions for dismissal.

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