Riverside County supervisors and 2,000 retirees receive the supplemental benefit, costing taxpayers $2.5 million a year

BY DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITER
dgang@pe.com

Published: 03 January 2012 09:10 PM

Riverside County’s elected officials and 2,000 other employees receive a supplemental retirement benefit — in addition to the pension contributions each receives through CalPers, county records show.

The benefits generally are $100 a month and cost the county more than $2.5 million a year.

At least two candidates for the Board of Supervisors and a sitting supervisor say the perk, particularly for elected officials, should be eliminated.

Retirement benefits are a hot-button issue in the county as officials seek to have employees contribute more toward their pensions through the California Public Employees Retirement System.

The county imposed pension changes on its three largest unions last year, and supervisors voted to have themselves, management and other nonunion employees contribute more toward their own retirements.

But so far, there has been no public discussion of whether the county should continue providing the $50 bi-weekly 401(a) contribution to elected officials and the other employees. In general, a 401(a) plan is a retirement-savings account to which only the employer makes a contribution.

Under a 401(k), both the employee and employer make contributions.

Those receiving the benefit come from various departments. The Sheriff’s Department has the most employees — 446 — receiving the 401(a) contributions, largely because the Law Enforcement Management Unit negotiated the benefit, county spokesman Ray Smith said Tuesday. The unit represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

Other employees had their positions changed from union representation to at-will status and, as an inducement to make the switch, they received more compensation through the 401(a) contributions, Smith said.

The elected officials and management, along with other employees not represented by a union, also receive the benefit. In the Human Resources Department, 346 people — the second highest number — receive the benefit, the records show.

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