Public pension litigation nears end

Contra Costa Superior Court Judge David Flinn announced he will rule by March 7 on labor unions' legal challenge of anti-spiking pension legislation signed into law in 2012.

Public employee groups in Contra Costa, Alameda and Merced counties are asking the court to overturn the new prohibition on the inclusion in the retirement formula of banked vacation, holiday, on-call and other types of pay intended to boost pension benefits. The value of the extra pay adds anywhere from 3 percent to 24 percent onto a pensioner's monthly check, depending on the agency.

Flinn has already indicated in a preliminary ruling that he intends to uphold the restriction for all public employees hired since Jan. 1, 2013, but will grandfather the perk -- subject to time limitations -- for the 21,000 employees still on the job in the three counties who expected to take advantage of the now-banned benefit. People who have already retired are not expected to lose any benefits.

Whatever the judge rules is almost certainly headed for an appeal.

The state's attorneys are arguing for an outright end to the benefit for all employees who retire on or after Jan. 1, 2013, while union lawyers are seeking a restoration of the formula for those who took the public jobs under the old rules.

-- Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Staff


Man wounded in neighborhood gunfire

A Richmond man was hospitalized after gunfire rang out in a neighborhood Monday afternoon, police said.

The shooting happened about 4:40 p.m. in the 1400 block of Bissell Avenue and wounded the man, who is in his 40s, Richmond police Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said. The man, who suffered gunshot wounds to the buttocks, was taken via ambulance to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek and is expected to survive.

Police said several witnesses reported multiple gunshots, and a shot tracker used by Richmond police also recorded more than one shot. No suspects were identified by police, but Abetkov said some witnesses reported that a black Honda may have been in the area at the time of the shooting.

Richmond has not had a homicide since October, and its total of 16 in 2013 was its lowest since 1980.

-- Rick Hurd, Staff


Amber Alert issued after carjacking

Police issued an Amber Alert after a suspect carjacked a sedan from a supermarket parking lot Tuesday afternoon with a teen girl and an elderly man inside, authorities said.

The missing vehicle was described as a burgundy or red 4-door sedan with a California license plate no. 6JFM648.

About 12:50 p.m. police received a report of a disturbance involving a man with a knife who was reportedly involved in some sort of theft inside the Safeway store in the 4100 block of Redwood Road in the Oakland hills. Police said the man ran into the parking lot, then got into a sedan where an older black man and a black girl about 13 years old were sitting. The SUV then drove away.

The vehicle was last seen traveling south on Redwood Road. The store is next to Highway 13, and it was unknown if the car got onto the freeway.

Police are asking anyone who has seen the vehicle to call 911.

-- Harry Harris and Natalie Neysa Alund, Staff


Schnauzer is best of breed at N.Y. dog show

A standard schnauzer from Livermore won the top prize for its breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York on Tuesday but failed to advance to the Best in Show category.

Ogee Saltus Ze Zahrabske, "Ogee" for short, made it to the finals in the Working Group competition but ultimately lost out to a Portuguese water dog, Claircreek Impression De Matisse.

Ogee, a male dog, is owned by Carol Davis-Earle, Cornelia Cheng and Ellen and Brad Yamada. The judging was televised live on USA cable network.

-- Kelly Gust, Staff

Pleasant Hill

Sakata wins top administrator award

Karen Sakata, deputy superintendent for the Contra Costa County Office of Education, has been named Central Office Administrator of the Year by two regional education groups.

Diablo Valley Charter organizations and the Association of California School Administrators, or ACSA, Region VI, recognized Sakata with the award in January. She is eligible for a similar statewide award to be announced in March.

"Karen has a special gift to hold people accountable, but at the same time is supportive and treats them with the utmost respect," said Contra Costa County schools Superintendent Joseph Ovick, in a prepared statement.

Ovick will not seek re-election in November. Sakata is running for his position.

-- Theresa Harrington, Staff

Castro Valley

Horse trailer hits big rig, ties up I-580

A crash involving a big rig and a trailer hauling a horse tied up traffic along Interstate 580 on Tuesday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

No one was seriously injured in the two-vehicle crash that was reported about 11 a.m. near the Strobridge Avenue off-ramp. The collision occurred when the trailer carrying a horse rear-ended the big-rig, which had been experiencing mechanical issues, said CHP Officer Eric Thomas.

The rig's driver was not injured but the driver of the horse trailer, a woman, was taken to a hospital with unknown injuries. The horse was deemed to be in good health, Thomas said.

Some lanes of westbound I-580 were closed for more than an hour.

-- Natalie Neysa Alund, Staff