Case tossed against 5 San Diego pension officials - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Case tossed against 5 San Diego pension officials

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court on Monday tossed out charges against five of six former members of San Diego's troubled pension board who had been accused of casting votes that personally benefited them.

The court found the five were serving in their official capacity when they voted in 2002 to increase pension benefits for all 20,000 fund participants.

It also said the five were part of the retirement plan and legally benefited along with other members.

The high court unanimously decided that former trustee Ron Saathoff should stand trial on criminal conflict-of-interest charges.

The justices said it appeared Saathoff, who was also president of the firefighters union at the time, uniquely benefited because he was the only trustee able to draw retirement benefits based on two salaries.

The City Council has voted to prohibited future union officials appointed to the retirement board from benefiting similarly. Court documents allege Saathoff would have been able to increase his retirement benefits by $25,000 a year.

Saathoff has pleaded not guilty. His attorney R.J. Coughlan Jr. did not immediately return a telephone call.

Many retirement boards, such as the giant California Public Employees' Retirement System, argued that their own trustees could be hampered in making crucial decisions if the state charges were allowed to stand.

Meanwhile, the legal battle continued for two of the five people cleared by the California Supreme Court.

Former trustees Teresa Webster and Cathy Lexin, along with Saathoff, and two others not charged in state court still face federal fraud and conspiracy charges related to the pension board vote.

In addition to Webster, Lexin and Saathoff, former administrator Lawrence Griffin and Loraine Chapin, the plan's general counsel at the time, are charged in the federal case.

All have pleaded not guilty.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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