January 19th, 2010, 2:00 pm
Posted by Tony Saavedra, Register investigative reporter
In a rare public chest-thumping session, Orange County Employees’ Retirement System board members Tuesday morning said they would not back down in their efforts to keep secret the names of retirees collecting more than $100,000 a year.
“Preventing a hit on senior citizens is more important than getting a hit on a database,” boomed board member Richard A. White Jr., a sergeant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Last month, the board voted behind closed doors to again deny the Register’s request for the information — despite two Superior Court decisions and an attorney general’s opinion that the data is indeed public. Register Editor Ken Brusic has warned the agency in a letter that the news organization has no other option but to sue–and that the retirement system will have to pay our legal bills if they lose.
On Tuesday — at the request of board member Chriss Street – the OCERS panel took the debate from behind closed doors.
White, reading from a prepared statement, said the media is too fallable to be trusted with the names of retirees. Mistakes could be made. Facts deliberately twisted to make a better story. He added that the safety of law enforcement pensioners could be jeopardized.
“I’m not interested in teeing up retirees for a beat down,” White said, adding that the public doesn’t need names to analyze the data. Board member Patti Gorczyca nodded in the background.
While this Watchdog isn’t interested in beating anyone down, there is a reason to ask for names. For one thing, it allows us to see if these retirees are double-dipping by working in other jobs. For another, it allows us to see whether these well-paid retirees have job-related criminal records — such as the former city manager of Vernon.
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