A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge this week denied a temporary restraining order blocking San Bernardino from slashing the pay of two elected officials.

Instead, Judge David Cohn on Tuesday, July 9, granted City Attorney Gary Saenz and City Clerk Gigi Hanna an expedited hearing to resolve their lawsuit against the City Council ahead of the expiration of their terms in March 2020.

“Because this (case) has to do with elected officials and taking away compensation, the judge wants to hear it sooner rather than later,” said attorney Tristan Pelayes, who is representing Saenz and Hanna in the suit.

A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 12.

Last week, Saenz and Hanna sued the San Bernardino City Council for significantly reducing their pay as part of a plan to erase an $11.2 million deficit in the fiscal year that began this month.

Elected in November 2015 to serve four-year terms beginning March 2016, the two claim in the suit the council has no authority to reduce their salaries and compensation while they are in office.

When a majority of the council adopted the fiscal 2019-20 budget last month, it agreed to slash total compensation for the last nine months of Saenz’s term from $184,700 to $100,000, Hanna’s from $128,600 to $52,500, and City Treasurer David Kennedy’s from $50,200 to $5,000, resulting in cumulative payroll savings of $206,000. The city will use $150,000 of those savings to pay for legislative advocates in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Kennedy retired shortly after the council’s action in June, his duties shifted to new Finance Director Paul Espinoza.

Pelayes said Tuesday he found fascinating the city’s argument for the move; that city leaders extended Saenz’s and Hanna’s respective terms a year, to 2020, “purely out of good will,” when the city charter voters approved in November 2016 changed the city attorney and city clerk positions from elected to appointed only after the two complete their terms.

“For (the city) to take that position,” Pelayes said, “is incredible.”

On Wednesday, Orange-based attorney Edward Kotkin, who is representing the City Council in the case, called the request for a temporary restraining order “completely inappropriate.”

The city has no opposition to an expedited hearing, however, he added.

Check out the full article by the San Bernardino Sun here: https://www.sbsun.com/2019/07/10/judge-grants-expedited-hearing-for-elected-officials-suing-san-bernardino-city-council-for-cutting-their-pay/