10:00 PM PDT on Friday, May 6, 2011

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

The San Bernardino County retirement board must publicly disclose the pension records of county retirees, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge John Vander Feer ruled in favor of The Press-Enterprise, ordering the San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Association to disclose the names of employees whose pensions exceed $90,000 a year.

In explaining his decision, Vander Feer cited a 2007 California Supreme Court ruling that found government employee salaries are a matter of public record and disclosure of the information is not an unwarranted invasion of privacy. He said the same reasoning would apply to pensions.

“Public employees are employees of the public,” Vander Feer said. “When they receive their retirement benefits, it’s still a public issue.”

Attorneys for both sides will have until June 1 to work out the language in a writ order, and the association will have 20 days after that to release the records, Vander Feer said.

The newspaper filed a request with the association last July asking for the “names, monthly payment, annual payment, job title, government agency and department” of all individuals receiving at least $90,000 in annual retirement benefits from the association.

The association denied the request, saying California’s County Employee Retirement Act of 1937, says members’ records “shall be confidential and not disclosed to anyone.”

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