Menlo Park picks legal battles

Will defend Measure L, but won't fight redistricting

There's no shortage of opportunities for a city like Menlo Park to see some legal action in the courtroom, but the City Council decided to pick its battles.

During the closed session at Tuesday's (Sept. 20) meeting, the council voted 5-0, according to Mayor Rich Cline, to defend the city against a lawsuit filed by two labor unions challenging the legality of Measure L, the pension reform initiative passed last year by a 72 percent vote.

Measure L raised the minimum retirement age for new Menlo Park public employees, excluding police officers, to 60, and decreased maximum pension benefits to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years.

It also requires voter approval for all benefit increases, a decision that used to rest with the City Council. That policy is the foundation of the lawsuit filed by Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, the firm representing Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

How much the city will have to spend on the defense remains to be seen. "We are determining the estimated costs and will bring it back to [the City Council for a budget adjustment when those costs are determined," said City Attorney Bill McClure, adding that there's no public number to share at this point.

Part of the expense will entail hiring lawyers, as Mayor Cline said the council decided to seek representation from an outside firm.


The Measure L lawsuit appeared to sate the council's desire for legal warfare. On the advice of the city attorney, Menlo Park won't sue over the state's redistricting plan, which splits the city down the middle using U.S. Highway 101 as the border between congressional districts.

The plan reassigns representation of Belle Haven to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, instead of retaining the neighborhood within the district represented by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park.

"We are in violent disagreement" with the new boundaries, Mayor Cline reported during Tuesday night's council meeting, but images of an expensive uphill battle convinced the council to vote 5-0 to stay out of court.

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Like this comment
Posted by Lee Duboc
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Thank you council! On behalf of all those who worked hard and voted for Measure L.

Like this comment
Posted by E. Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I want to add my thanks to the City Council.

When the citizens of Menlo Park organized to place Measure "L" on the ballot not all Council members showed enthusiasm for the effort. I respect that. Difference of opinion are encouraged in our democracy. But after more than sufficient citizens enthusiastically signed the ballot petition, you voted to place it on the ballot. Then, when the unions and their lawyers attempted to prevent the citizens' right to vote on it you expended time and treasure to defend those voting rights, and prevailed.

When the vote was confirmed you adopted Measure "L". Since then (Nov 2010) you have further recognized the will of the citizens by imposing a labor contract that contains a two tiered pension system that mimics that called for in Measure "L".

Now, you have to expend more time and treasure as the unions attempt to declare a privileged position that continues to transfer wealth from the citizens to their members, regardless of democratic process that has called for financial reason.

Thank you.

It's behavior like that being demonstrated by the AFSCME and SEIU unions that makes it easy to understand why the people of Wisconsin altered their laws surrounding public employees unions. Allowing union employees determine annually if they want to pay union dues will slow the never-ending steam of money that allows the "institutions" (not the members) of the unions and their lawyers to manufacture lawsuits intended to intimidate local governments and force them to spend precious funds.

Thank you for not being intimidated. This is important for Menlo Park. It is important for every city and town in California.

Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Dear City Council

First of all Thank You from ALL the citizens of Menlo Park for choosing to fight the Union Lawsuit. You have shown that the will of the people cannot be denied and we are forever grateful for your commitment.

It is of great concern that these Unions are trying to YET AGAIN foil what the citizens of Menlo Park have asked and voted for. I encourage you to end negotiations with AFSCME until this issue is settled. To simply impose a contract of YOUR choosing, and to let their members know that the citizens of Menlo Park are NOT happy with their representatives conduct and that we will NOT deal with them until they capitulate.

To negotiate with them while AFSCME is being TWO FACED is simply feeding their Union's coffers with the money to sue us. It's insulting and they need to understand that this conduct will not be TOLERATED.

Roy Thiele-Sardina

Like this comment
Posted by wap
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 22, 2011 at 7:56 am

May the City Council continue to do the peoples will. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2011 at 7:24 am

Measure L may be some of the people's will but it's still against the law.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Downtowner -

Actually, Measure L IS the law... for now. It's up to others (read: the Union) to challenge it. Eventually, a court will decide.

Even if a court decides it is unconstitutional, it is quite apparent that our politicians have gotten the message. And if they haven't, they will be replaced.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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