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PERA decides against signing off on Colorado Springs’ appeal

Published: March 18, 2014, 4:30 pm, by Jakob Rodgers
Memorial Hospital North - Gazette file

Memorial Hospital North – Gazette file

A bid by Colorado Springs’ attorneys to continue its fight against the Public Employees’ Retirement Association hit a bump this week.

The state’s pension fund formally opposed the city’s request for an appeal, according to a motion filed Monday by PERA.

The move leaves the appeal’s fate up to Harlan Bockman, a retired Adams County judge who was hired by both sides to preside over the case.

Colorado Springs lawyers either need PERA or Bockman to sign off on the city’s request for an interlocutory appeal – a special type of appeal applying only to cases that have yet to reach a final resolution.

Bockman ruled in February that Colorado Springs officials ignored the proper process for pulling people out of the pension fund when it leased Memorial Hospital to University of Colorado Health on Oct. 1, 2012.

Specifically, city officials never sought approval from PERA’s board and didn’t seek a vote from hospital employees before pulling them out of PERA, Bockman ruled. Most importantly, the city didn’t pay any unfunded pension liabilities to PERA, he said.

PERA has sought $190 million to cover those pension accounts, as well as interest. As of Oct. 28, that interest reached $15 million, and it continues to grow.

But in making his ruling, Bockman never stated a monetary amount owed by the city to PERA.

PERA’s lawyers argued in their motion Monday that the city’s request didn’t meet all the requirements needed to file an interlocutory appeal. For instance, the city’s request wouldn’t fast-track the case to a resolution, PERA lawyers argued.

“The City’s request for interlocutory appeal will only serve as an unnecessary detour to the necessary steps needed to end this dispute and require the city to pay the funds it owes to Memorial’s retirees and vested former employees,” PERA wrote in the motion.

PERA’s lawyers also said they plan to file a motion with the Colorado Supreme Court that would force the city to exhaust the pension fund’s administrative review process. Such a motion is meant to move the city closer toward paying PERA.

Even if Bockman signs off on the city’s request for an appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals must still decide whether to take the case.