Uploaded: Wed, Jan 6, 2010, 5:03 pm
City retirees collect pensions, return to work
'Double dipping' a common practice among government employees
The cost of city employee pensions has long been a subject of controversy, and that debate was given new life recently after three city department heads retired last month — then returned to work part-time while still receiving their pensions.
To do what city officials called "critical work" for the city, library director Karen Burnett and employee services director Kathy Farrar have returned to their posts after retiring in December. They will be paid $110 an hour and $113 an hour, respectively, while also drawing annual pensions of more than $100,000.
Farrar's annual pension could be a record-high $187,000 due to her salary of $183,000 and her steady employment with the city for 38 years. (Burnett's salary of $176,000 and her 8.5 years with the city could lead to a $40,000 yearly pension from Mountain View alone.) Calls to CalPERS to confirm these figures were not returned as of press time.
Newly retired city attorney Michael Martello is also returning to work, as interim "town attorney" in Los Gatos, where he will be paid an undisclosed amount while also drawing a pension. He retired from Mountain View with a salary of $235,000 last year — possibly resulting in another unusually large yearly pension as he will receive $101,000 from his work in Mountain View alone.
The practice of taking a pension and returning to work part-time is known as "double dipping." And while it is illegal in some states, such as Michigan, it's allowed in California.
CalPERS, the agency responsible for managing pensions for the retirees of most California cities, allows government workers to receive their pensions while returning to work for another agency under CalPERS (which includes Los Gatos) as long as it is for no more than 960 hours a year — translating to about six months of full-time work or a year of half-time work. The policy spurred council member Margaret Abe Koga to say she'd like to see a report on how many hours Martello is working for Los Gatos.
Passing the torch
Critics say double dipping encourages senior officials to retire early while preventing others from moving up in the ranks. Proponents say it allows government agencies to save money since a retiree does not need to be provided additional health care coverage. Martello himself pointed out that retired police chiefs are known to move from city to city filling vacancies.
City Council members had mixed opinions about city manager Kevin Duggan's decision to bring back Farrar and Burnett for part-time work.
"I prefer the practice in which you train someone to take over," said council member John Inks. "I think (Duggan) has probably done that, we're just not seeing it here."
Abe-Koga said she had hoped to have replacements for Burnett and Farrar already in place since the council budgeted $150,000 for "succession planning."
But assistant city manager Nadine Levin said the two retirees will work for no more than four months each until replacements are found. And Inks noted that Duggan is dealing with a wave of retirements, including a dozen in December alone.
"He's got big shoes to fill, and a bunch of them all at once," Inks said. He added that assistant public works director Mike Fuller has temporarily taken over for Cathy Lazarus, the retired public works director.
CalPERS investment earnings currently cover 75 percent of pension payments, according to city finance director Patty Kong.
In recent years the city's contribution — most of which comes from its general fund — has decreased slightly, and currently hovers at around $9 million. But the recession has caused CalPERS investment revenue to take a significant hit, and Kong said the city's contribution will increase for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
The financial burden to cities is a topic of concern being discussed on a regional level by city managers, said Levin. A possible solution often talked about, she said, is a "two tier" system in which newer employees' pensions are set at lower rates.
She said nothing could be done to lower the pensions already agreed upon for existing employees, as "those are contractual obligations."
Council member Mike Kasperzak noted that pension rates increased during the dot-com boom, when cities believed the heated economic climate would last. Now Mountain View is facing a deficit of up to $5 million out of its $89 million general fund this year.
Levin said pension rates increased in 2006 to stay competitive with other cities, and as part of bargaining with unions which agreed to cuts in retiree health care, another major expense which is growing. For salaried city employees not in public safety, pension rates rose from "2 at 55" to "2.7 at 55" — meaning Mountain View employees can retire as early as age 55 and receive 2.7 percent of their highest annual salary multiplied by the number of years they worked for the city. After 30 years of employment, that comes to 81 percent of their highest salary.
For public safety personnel, rates increased to "3 at 50," meaning they can retire at age 50 and receive, for example, 90 percent of their salary after 30 years of employment.
CalPERS calculates how much previous employment adds to an accumulated final pension. Employees have to work for at least five years for the city to receive anything from Mountain View towards their pensions.
The dim economic climate is sure to affect upcoming union negotiations. Mountain View is expected to begin negotiations soon with the Police Officer's Association, as its contract ends in June. The city's three other unions have contracts expiring in 2011.
While the city's CalPERS rate is not unusual (Palo Alto also pays its employees "2.7 at 55"), Levin said Mountain View's city employees pay a significant portion of their own salaries toward their pensions. As for Martello and other non-pubic safety employees, 10.5 percent of his salary over the last few years "went to pay for his pension," she said. Public safety employees pay 13 percent of their salaries toward their pensions.
"This is very unusual," Levin said. "You will probably find (in Mountain View) the highest cost share of any other city around."
According to records published online by www.californiapensionreform.com, there are at least 16 retired city of Mountain View employees who are paid over $100,000 a year in retirement income, not including those who just retired in December 2009. The highest paid on that list is former police captain Bruce Barsi, who receives $156,000 a year, or $13,000 a month.
By comparison, 21 city of Palo Alto retirees are paid over $100,000 a year, and 54 city of Sunnyvale retirees are paid over $100,000 a year.
MOUNTAIN VIEW'S $100,000 CLUB
Below are the city of Mountain View retirees, not counting Karen Burnett, Kathy Farrar and Michael Martello, who are currently drawing annual pensions of more than $100,000:
Bruce Barsi: $156,187
Timothy Ko: $146,734
Marc Revere: $138,618
Steven Conte: $133,164
Paula Bettencourt: $130,285
Ronald Geary: $122,851
Larry Bertuccelli: $119,933
Michael Freeberg: $115,601
Michael Alexander: $106,590
Glenn Lyles: $105,925
Charles Gibson: $105,874
Benvenuto Lenci: $104,358
Larry Janda: $103,639
Dennis Belluomini: $102,966
John Welbourn: $101,716
Bruce Fritz: $100,372
Posted by Gov't Hypocrisy,
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2010 at 6:45 pm
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City Council Personal Code of Conduct
Adopted November 19, 2002; Revised July 6, 2004
The residents and businesses of Mountain View are entitled to have fair, ethical and accountable local government. Such a government requires that public officials:
* Comply with both the letter and the spirit of the laws and policies affecting operations of the government.
* Be independent, impartial and fair in their judgment and actions.
* Use their public office for the public good, not for personal gain.
* Conduct public deliberations and processes openly, unless legally confidential, in an atmosphere of respect and civility.
To this end, the Mountain View City Council has adopted this Code of Ethics to encourage public confidence in the integrity of local government and its fair and effective operation.
City Councilmembers shall sign this personal code of conduct at the first Council meeting in January each year when the Council elects the Mayor and Vice Mayor as a symbol of each Councilmember's continuing commitment to abide by the principles of this code.
1. Act in the Public Interest
Recognizing that stewardship of the public interest must be their primary concern, Councilmembers shall work for the common good of the people of Mountain View and not for any private or personal interest, and they will endeavor to treat all persons, claims and transactions in a fair and equitable manner.
2. Comply with the Law
Councilmembers shall comply with the laws of the nation, the State of California and the City in the performance of their public duties. These laws include, but are not limited to: the United States and California constitutions; the Mountain View City Charter; laws pertaining to conflicts of interest, election campaigns, financial disclosures, employer responsibilities and open processes of government; and City ordinances and policies.
3. Conduct of Members
Councilmembers shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the City Council, boards, commissions, committees, staff or the public.
4. Respect for Process
Councilmember duties shall be performed in accordance with the processes and rules of order established by the City Council.
5. Conduct of Public Meetings
Councilmembers shall inform themselves of public issues, listen attentively to public discussions before the body and focus on the business at hand.
6. Decisions Based on Merit
Council decisions shall be based upon the merits and substance of the matter at hand.
It is the responsibility of Councilmembers to publicly share substantive information that is relevant to a matter under consideration that they have received from sources outside of the public decision-making process with all other Councilmembers.
8. Coordination with City Staff
Appropriate City staff should be involved when Councilmembers meet with officials from other agencies and jurisdictions to ensure proper staff support as needed and to keep staff informed.
9. Disclosure of Corruption
All City officials shall take an oath upon assuming office, pledging to uphold the constitution and laws of the City, the State and the Federal government. As part of this oath, officials commit to disclosing to the appropriate authorities and/or to the City Council any behavior or activity that may qualify as corruption, abuse, fraud, bribery or other violation of the law.
10. Conflict of Interest
In order to assure their independence and impartiality on behalf of the public good, Councilmembers shall not use their official positions to influence government decisions in which they have a financial interest or where they have an organizational responsibility or a personal relationship that would present a conflict of interest under applicable State law.
In accordance with the law, members shall file written disclosures of their economic interest and if they have a conflict of interest regarding a particular decision, refrain from participating in that decision unless otherwise permitted by law.
11. Gifts and Favors
Councilmembers shall not take advantage of services or opportunities for personal gain by virtue of their public office that are not available to the public in general. They shall refrain from accepting gifts, favors or promises of future benefits that might compromise their independence of judgment or action or give the appearance of being compromised.
12. Confidential Information
Councilmembers shall respect and preserve the confidentiality of information provided to them concerning the confidential matters of the City. They shall neither disclose confidential information without proper legal authorization nor use such information to advance their personal, financial or private interests.
13. Use of Public Resources
Public resources not available to the general public (e.g., City staff time, equipment, supplies or facilities) shall not be used by Councilmembers for private gain or personal purposes.
14. Representation of Private Interests
In keeping with their role as stewards of the public trust, Councilmembers shall not appear on behalf of the private interests of a third-party before the City Council or any board, commission or committee or proceeding of the City.
To the best of their ability, Councilmembers shall represent the official policies and positions of the City Council. When presenting their personal opinions or positions, members shall explicitly state that they do not represent the Council or the City.
16. Improper Influence
Councilmembers shall refrain from using their position to improperly influence the deliberations or decisions of City staff, boards, commissions or committees.
17. Policy Role of Members
Councilmembers shall respect and adhere to the Council-Manager structure of Mountain View City government as provided in State law and the City Charter.
18. Positive Work Environment
Councilmembers shall support the maintenance of a positive and constructive environment for residents, businesses and City employees.
Ethics standards shall be included in the regular orientations for City Council candidates. Councilmembers entering office shall sign a statement affirming they read and understood the City of Mountain View's City Council Code of Ethics.
20. Compliance and Enforcement
Councilmembers themselves have the primary responsibility to assure that ethical standards are understood and met and that the public can continue to have full confidence in the integrity of City government.
This personal code of conduct shall be considered to be a summary of the longer City Council Code of Conduct document. The City Council Code of Conduct document shall be considered to be the definitive document relating to ethical conduct by Mountain View City Councilmembers.
I affirm that I have read and understand the City of Mountain View City Council Personal Code of Conduct.
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