Retired Deputy for pension coverup

The California Foundation for Financial Responsibility (CFFR) has been requesting and releasing information on public employee retirees who receive pensions above $100,000 (see Contra Costa County has its own retirement system and a California Records Act request was made for that data by the CFFR. A former CCC Sheriff is seeking a restraining order to keep the pension information from the public. It is unlikely she will prevail – nor should she. Just like salary information for public employees is widely available (CoCoTax has it on our website), those in the $100,000 Pension Club will soon be revealed.

It is really outrageous that people who expect the taxpayers to pay for their pensions, don’t want the amounts made public. The courts have been consistently on the side of disclosure.

Public employee pensions, unlike those in the private sector are almost uniformly “defined benefit” pensions. That means those retirees get their pension (plus cost of living raises) no matter what happens to the investments of the pension plan. Unfortunately, it is the taxpayers that have to make up any losses for government employees while also covering the losses to their own retirement investments. How sweet a deal is that for government employees, and how raw a deal for the taxpayers.

Pensions are a large and growing expense for state and local government. The citizens of Contra Costa County are about to find out just how large those pension costs are.

Irwin v Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Association

Print Friendly
Share the joy


  1. RF says

    Does anyone else wonder who is funding Mr. Irwins legal effort? I wouldn’t doubt if it was the Sheriff of CoCo county, a known double dipper and his commanders who are all set for HUGE pensions.

    Also, if you are about to run for congress do you really want to the public to know how HUGE your pension is? (Sherrif Rupf pulls in around half a million dollars in pension and salary) I’m sure Mr. Rupf doesn’t want you to know that.

    I wonder why the CoCo county Sheriff, in the middle of a huge budget crisis, would promote someone to undersheriff….. unless he was trying to help pad the pension of the new undersheriff

  2. says

    Good news! The Contra Costa Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the California Newspaper Publishers Association will fight Donna Irwin’s efforts to keep the public from knowing where their tax dollars are going.

    If you need proof that pensions and retiree health care are a very serious problem for Contra Costa County, this is what County Administrator David Twa stated on March 17, 2009:
    – Pensions “will require an additional $165 million contribution each year by
    – Retiree health “will require an additional $56 Million contribution each year for the next 30 years to fund at a 40% level”

    To place these numbers in perspective, the 2009-10 budget is around $1.2 billion. Keep these numbers in mind when you hear complaints about the need to reduce government services. This topic merits discussion and the daylighting of pensions in excess of $100,000 is one way to bring it to the attention of the public.

  3. says

    When did it happen that people were expecting to retire at benefits higher than when they were paid in either the private or public sectors?

    An interesting separate discussion would be the concept of retirement in the public sector capped not only on the basis of earnings but maybe by the Average or the Median of the public that is supporting it. Or maybe the idea of retirement not related at all to salary but as a cumulation of funds set aside during the course of employment sort of like the current vogue in the private sector of the last decade or so. There are very big negatives and positives in the way we structure retirements and how we earn it in the public sector vs the private sector. It is not an easy area to navigate, but the mood of the current in the public may make such a review timely, and maybe some good can come out of it at least in the terms of an understanding of what we are doing and for whom and at what cost, what is sustainable, what is necessary, what is realistic and what is proper.

  4. Bob says

    Kris, I have a feeling she is linked to the Peace Officers Association. Nobody wants to kill the goose that lays the golden egg
    My concern is the ability to sell back the most benefits is reserved for management personal, in law enforcement and firefighting the people who take the least amount of risk. Every time a peace officer gets killed in the line of duty its a lowly patrolman. I agree that change will come if this is released. If some retired manager gets $250,000 a year instead of $284,000 he is not going to suffer much, who is going to suffer is the career patrolmen for whom the benefit was designed.

  5. says

    Bob – name and salary information are out there for public employees. This has all been settled previously. The question is why Ms. Irwin has decided to fight it.

    There are some real horror stories about pensions versus earnings as you suggest. Two identifed by Times Columnist Dan Borenstein are as offensive to logic as they are obnoxious to the taxpayers who will be picking up the tab. And it is all legal.

    Peter Nowikci, former chief of the Moraga Orinda Fire District retired at age 50. Salary = $185,000 per year. Pension $241,000 per year.

    Retired San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Chief earned a final year salary of $221,000. Pension = $284,000. He was 51 when he retired. He retired for medical reasons which means that much of his retirement dollars will be tax free.

    This cannot continue. The system is broken. The only way we taxpayers have to fight this is to shine the light of day on these situations. Dan Borenstein has done a fabulous job of covering these issues. The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility is just doing their job by requesting the members of the $100,000-Plus club be revealed.

  6. Bob says

    The letter from the Retirement Board is very revealing in stating that around 450 people are receiving over $100,000 in annual benefits. I think it would meet the needs of the public to simply list the amount of the pension and the last job with county without revealing names. I assume many of these people are retired peace officers and they did nothing wrong in taking a benefit after many years of service to the County. I for one see no need to put personal information out that could cause stress to people who probably developed quite a long list of potential enemies in the course of serving the community.
    I think we also need to look at the last years salary and final retirement benefit so that we can understand how sell backs of vacation and other benefits raise the final payment amount. Contra Costa uses a highest year formula while Alameda averages the highest three years minimizing the effect of sell backs.This is something that may need to be reviewed.

    • says

      I’d hazard that there are a couple former MDs and department heads that are not too popular as well out of 450. More than likely a surprising amount if double dippers and family triple dippers.

      Some may argue for proection and if the situation was not so egregious I lean that way, but it’s so out of whack there needs to be a truth commission and full disclosure so the public can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Is first initial and last name too much disclosure? I don’t think so but the real info the public needs to see is age and years of service.

      One of my first jobs after moving to CA in 1981 was the sheer delight of working as a temp in the SF Retirement system just to recalculate pensions after some prop passed.

      Even then, SF had created a 2nd tier retirement plan based on average of three years of what the published civil service classification rate was v old plan of last years salary on overtime steroids and last two years on vacation from built up overtime and carryover unused vacation time.

      What a racket!

      Point is people in contra costa chuckle about SF all the time but even a pro labor union town figured out it could nit afford such ill managed calculatipnripped off.

      Contra Costa wasn’t ripped off by it’s public employees but by it’s county government that consistently swept fiscal reality under the carpet for almost three decades.

      People like to point out how workers have not made much wage progress since 1980

      Maybe it’s because the wealth was already earmarked for unaffordable pensions for the greatest generation

      It’s not class warfare it’s generational warfare!

  7. Kris Hunt, Exec Dir., CoCoTax says

    Monica, Do not blame the employees for the benefits they receive. It is their right to ask. It is the elected officials who approve those contracts. I once asked the CCCounty Board of Supervisors for the cost of the new union contract they were about to approve. Nobody had even done a cost analysis. Now THAT is scary.

  8. monica sheridan says

    I hope that Ms Irwin doesn’t prevail in her suit. Public employees work for the public and the public pays for their benefits. We are their employer and should be able to review and change their benefits at any time as needed for the public good. If you want privacy for your benefit package, then go to work for a private company–(-of course you will not get the same benefits there as the tax payers are not covering you).