San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 01/05/16 – 5:46 PM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Unlike every other retiree in this and other bankrupt California cities, 23 retired San Bernardino police officers would lose part of their pension in the city’s bankruptcy plan — and they’re going public with their opposition to those cuts.

The officers would still get payments from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, but a retirement supplement from a private firm called the Public Agency Retirement System would be eliminated.

In bankruptcy documents, the city said it thought it had a deal with the retirees to end the PARS supplement and instead distribute the $1.8 million in assets in that fund to the 23 officers.

In court and in letters and statements to the City Council, several of the officers are making clear that there’s no deal.

The PARS supplement — which the city used to boost the officers’ retirements to the level now common for other police and firefighters — makes up 10 to 20 percent of many of those officers’ pensions, retired officer John Montecino told Mayor Carey Davis, the City Council and the public at a meeting Monday.

Montecino highlighted the case of two officers he said depend on PARS: Brian Cartony, a decorated officer he said was ambushed when he responded to a homicide scene, and Mark Johnson, nearly killed on duty by an AK-47.

“Brian and Mark are some of San Bernardino Police Department’s wounded warriors,” Montecino said. “Officers who were willing to put their lives on the line for San Bernardino and now depend on you, Mayor Davis, and this council not to betray them in retirement. Don’t let yesterday’s heroes become today’s outcast.”

Davis said after Monday’s meeting that, as part of the bankruptcy case, any comment on the PARS issue should come from City Attorney Gary Saenz.

The city and two unions representing police agreed in 2003 to use the PARS retirement system to give police officers age 50 or older with 20 or more years of service with San Bernardino retirement compensation that equaled the retirement then becoming common statewide: 3 percent at 50, rather than the 3-at-55 the city offered through CalPERS.

That agreement was replaced in 2007, when the city and union began offering the same benefit — retirement benefits of 3 percent of each years’ salary available at age 50 — through CalPERS.

That left 23 officers who retired between 2004 and 2007. The city continued making payments to that retirement fund until shortly after its August 2012 bankruptcy filing.

Although the plan has many moving parts and the city thought it had a deal with the group, it will continue trying to resolve the issue with the PARS retirees, Saenz said.

As he spoke, Saenz noted, he was on his way to bankruptcy mediation with another creditor upset with its treatment under the plan: the Luxembourg-based corporation EEPK that’s fighting for more of the $50 million it’s owed than the 1 percent the city has proposed.

In defending that decision, Saenz has said the city must favor its workforce to continue functioning as a city.

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