Pensions

By Alicia Robinson, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 08/08/16 – 7:54 PM PDT |

High-earning state and local government retirees are scattered around the state, with no one city or agency dominating the list of the biggest pension payouts in 2015, data from an open records advocacy group show.

On Monday, Transparent California, a public employee pay website run by a Nevada-based think tank, released 2015 figures for pension payments from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS. State pension data are public, but spokesman Robert Fellner said the group compiled the most recent annual numbers for about 625,000 retirees and made them widely accessible in a searchable database.

Including health care and other benefits, the highest payout statewide in 2015 was more than $500,000, but it went to Linda R. Ladd, whom the database lists as the beneficiary of a retiree from Santa Ana.

Beneficiaries may be a spouse or relative of a deceased worker, but Fellner said CalPERS does not give such details, and CalPERS spokeswoman Amy Morgan could not immediately clarify Ladd’s relationship to the retiree.

James D. Tierney, a retiree from Ontario, ranked third on the list with a 2015 payment of $458,524. Fellner couldn’t explain the discrepancy between that total and a reported monthly payout that came to less than $30,000 for the year.

The group reported that Tierney retired in 1992 after 6.7 years in the CalPERS system, so it’s unclear why he would receive such a large payout. CalPERS pensions are typically based on a percentage of the employee’s highest pay times their years of service.

CalPERS’ Morgan was checking into Tierney’s case Monday afternoon.

Another 12 payouts topped $300,000, though in more than half of them, the group said the amount might include a one-time settlement, such as earned vacation pay.

Fellner’s group also ranked cities with at least 20 “full-career” retirees that paid the highest average pensions. A full-career worker is one with 30 or more years of service.

Moreno Valley, San Marcos and Santa Fe Springs made the top three for non-safety workers, with Irvine and Yorba Linda within the 20 highest average pensions. Vacaville, El Segundo and El Monte topped the list for public safety employees, with Pasadena in sixth place and Redlands at No. 12.

Transparent California’s goal is to give taxpayers, elected officials and everyone else “complete, accurate information” about what pensions cost, Fellner said. Retiree costs are sometimes given as averages, which can be misleading because CalPERS beneficiaries include people with only a few years of service, he said.
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