Paying a police chief’s $204,000 pension – after 8 months work – illustrates what municipal bankruptcies are all about

Police Chief Tom Morris was supposed to bring stability to law enforcement when he was appointed to the job four years ago.

He lasted eight months and left the now-bankrupt city at age 52 with an annual pension that pays more than $204,000 — the third of four chiefs who stayed in the position for less than three years and retired with an average of 92 percent of their final salaries.

Stockton, which filed for bankruptcy protection on June 28, is among California cities from the Mexican border to the San Francisco Bay confronting rising pension costs as they contend with growing unemployment and declining property- and sales-tax revenue. The pensions are the consequence of decisions made when stock markets were soaring, technology money flooded the state, and retirement funds were running surpluses…

Seems to me the biggest part of this problem was bureaucrats taking good care of other bureaucrats.

Many cities are hobbled by retiree obligations that consume 10 percent or more of revenue. And unlike other expenses, which can be cut or deferred, pension costs are intractable, said Eric Friedland, head of municipal-credit research for Schroder Investment Management North America.

City councils across the state, spurred by then-Governor Gray Davis’s move to enhance pensions for California Highway Patrol officers in 1999, sweetened retirement benefits for police, firefighters and other workers in the decade that followed. Public-safety employees could retire after working for 30 years, collect 90 percent of their top salaries and take jobs elsewhere while still in their 50s.

What comparison is there between people doing the grunt-work for 30 years and a bureaucrat who spent 8 months in appointed office?

Cities and counties began boosting pensions for police and firefighters after Davis signed the bill enhancing the benefit for state troopers. The Legislature enacted the measure in a year when Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund, had 138 percent of the assets needed to cover projected liabilities…

“You want to have a sound, fair compensation package for your public servants,” State Controller John Chiang said. “You don’t want them in a vulnerable position where they easily could be lost, but then you also have to make sure that you have a fair system that can make adjustments if a city’s finances are tanking…”

Amy Norris, a Calpers spokeswoman, said the average pension of someone in the Calpers system who retired in fiscal 2011 is $3,065 a month, or $36,780 annually…

Among California’s municipal police and fire workers, the average retirement age is 54 after 25 years of service with a monthly pension of $7,059 a month, or $84,708 a year, Norris said.

The average retirement benefit for all public employees nationally is $22,600…

Looks to me that California bureaucrats figured out that if they all gamed the system a la Wall Street, the taxpayers of California would pay for a retirement better than many of us earned while still putting in 40 hours a week.

No one in the state legislature provided oversight. No one in CalPars did the math. No one in the “official” political parties fought for accountability. They all just handed out a slice of the pie – figuring, no doubt, to get their own in return. And maybe some did?

2 thoughts on “Paying a police chief’s $204,000 pension – after 8 months work – illustrates what municipal bankruptcies are all about

  1. god says:

    The way a California economist put it this morning was, “we can’t run our state budget by hoping we find a pink unicorn pooping gold nuggets”.

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