This is an appeal from a judgment for the plaintiff in a action by a retired police officer for declaratory relief and for an accumulated amount alleged to be due him from a pension fund pursuant to an ordinance of the defendant city of Berkeley.
The plaintiff was a member of the Police Department of the city of Berkeley from August, 1925, to May 1, 1940, when he was retired because of physical disability incurred in the line of duty. At the time of his retirement and for more than three years immediately prior thereto he held the rank of "Mounted Patrolman" and received the salary attached to that rank of $185 per month. At that time Berkeley Ordinance No. 2250-N.S. provided that under the conditions applicable to the plaintiff's retirement a pension would be paid during the period of his disability. Section 13 of the ordinance fixed the amount of the pension in the following language: "... he shall be paid from the Fund during the period of his disability a pension equal to one-half of the average salary attached to the rank or ranks held during the three years immediately preceding the date of retirement...." Accordingly, the plaintiff's pension was determined to be $92.50 a month at the time of his retirement, and payments of that amount were made to him. Shortly after his retirement the salary attached to the rank of mounted patrolman was increased and additional periodic increases later became effective. Finally, in February, 1951, subsequent to the commencement of this action, the salary was increased to $334.80 per month. The amounts received by the plaintiff have remained at $92.50 a month. He asserts that he is and has been entitled to one-half of the fluctuating salary attached to the rank he held rather than to one-half the monthly amount paid to him during the three years immediately prior to his retirement. The trial court agreed with the interpretation of section 13 asserted by the plaintiff and awarded to him the sum of $3,095.74, the difference between $92.50 and one-half of the salary attached to the rank of mounted patrolman for the years within the period of the statute of limitations and the elapsed time since the filing of
The question involves the construction of section 13 prior to its amendment as hereinafter indicated. More precisely the question is the proper application of the term "salary" as used in that section. The plaintiff contends that at any particular time it is the salary then attached to the rank held for the three years immediately prior to retirement. The defendants contend that it is a fixed amount, the equivalent of the salary actually earned during the three-year period.
The plaintiff relies upon Casserly v. City of Oakland (1936), 6 Cal.2d 64 [56 P.2d 237], wherein a provision of the charter of the city of Oakland provided that a pension should be "equal to one half of the salary attached to the rank held" at the date of retirement. The court held that this provision provided for a fluctuating pension, which increased or decreased as the salaries paid to active employees increased or decreased. The language employed in the present case differs from that in the Casserly case only in the addition and substitution of the italicized words in the following quotation of the charter provision in the latter case: "equal to one-half of the average salary attached to the rank or ranks held during the three years immediately preceding the date of retirement." The plaintiff contends that the additional
In Klench v. Board of Pension Fund Commrs. (1926), 79 Cal.App. 171 [249 P. 46], a statute provided that a retired police officer was entitled "during his lifetime to a yearly pension equal to one-half of the amount of salary attached to the rank he may have held on such police force on the date of such retirement." The following language from that case is quoted in the Casserly case at pages 66-67: "... it is our belief that the word `salary' ... was intended to refer to the rank of the retired police officer and not to the time at which he was retired. In other words, the section as phrased seems clearly enough to indicate that what the legislature intended thereby to declare was that, on being retired under said act, a member of the police department should be paid a pension based upon the salary which may be paid to police officers of the rank held by him at the time of the retirement of such officer." (To the same effect, see Whitehead v. Davie, 189 Cal. 715 [209 P. 1008]; Jones v. Cooney, 82 Cal.App. 265 [255 P. 536]; Aitken v. Roche, 48 Cal.App. 753, 755 [192 P. 464]; Rumetsch v. Davie, 47 Cal.App. 512, 514 [190 P. 1075].)
The defendants contend that the Casserly and other similar cases are not applicable to the facts of the present case because of the difference in the language employed. But they fail to point out a material variation pertinent to the issue here under consideration. True, the provisions of the ordinance might be susceptible to more than one interpretation.
To accomplish the result sought by the defendants required an amendment to section 13. This was brought about in 1944, more than four years after the plaintiff retired. The pertinent portions of the section as amended provide for "a pension equal to one-half of the average monthly rate of salary which such member shall have received during the three years immediately preceding the date of retirement...." Also in 1944 section 24.1 was added to the ordinance in an endeavor to make section 13 as amended retroactive. The new section provided that "any person now receiving a pension under the terms of this ordinance shall receive an amount based upon the average monthly rate of salary which such member received during the three years immediately preceding the date of retirement, and that said amount shall be a fixed amount that shall not increase nor decrease, regardless of any change in salary subsequent to the date of the granting of the original pension...."
In support of the asserted retroactive effect of section 24.1 the defendants contend that although the right to a pension is a vested right as an integral part of the contract of employment still it is a right to a fair pension only the terms of which may be altered within reason without an impairment of the contract. They rely in the main upon Kern v. City of Long Beach, 29 Cal.2d 848 [179 P.2d 799]. But in that case and in the other cases referred to (Packer v. Board of Retirement, 35 Cal.2d 212 [217 P.2d 660]; Sweesy v. Los Angeles etc. Retirement Board, 17 Cal.2d 356 [110 P.2d 37]; Brophy v. Employees Retirement System, 71 Cal.App.2d 455 [162 P.2d 939]; McCarthy v. Oakland, 60 Cal.App.2d 546, 547 [141 P.2d 4]; Brooks v. Pension Board, 30 Cal.App.2d 118, 119 [85 P.2d 956]) the court did not have before it the question of the obligation due a pensioner after his status had become fixed by the happening of the contingency which made the pension due and payable.
The judgment is affirmed.
Carter, J., Traynor, J., Schauer, J., and Spence, J., concurred.
Gibson, C.J., and Edmonds, J., concurred in the judgment.
Appellants' petition for a rehearing was denied December 23, 1953.