WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County employee perks pay off in retirement


Former Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Kerns.

Shortly before he retired in early 2011, Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Kerns had been making an annual salary of $134,097.

But the county pension that he now receives is based on a much higher figure, his final earnings of $174,857.

The 30 percent boost came from Kerns cashing out $12,850 in accrued administrative leave and the inclusion of nearly $28,000 in other non-salary pay and benefits the county owed him.

Kerns worked 12 years for the county, so his annual pension of $53,542 is not one of the six-figure payments that has fueled public outrage over county retirement benefits. But like the top earners getting those pensions and hundreds of other former county employees, Kerns benefited from a system that allows workers to increase their retirement checks by including a wide range of pay and benefits outside of salary.

He makes no apologies.

“You play by the rules,” he said. “I don’t begrudge anyone taking what they have coming to them. … If people find that objectionable, then maybe they need to change the rules.”

County pension costs are up more than 400 percent since 2000 and the average annual compensation on which pensions are computed has risen 75 percent during that time to nearly $92,000 for workers retiring in 2011.

The Board of Supervisors, in charge of setting benefits for a retirement system they acknowledge is unsustainable, has made no changes despite public outcry that bloated pensions are compromising essential public services.

But last week, they indicated add-ons like the ones that raised Kerns’ pension would be high on their list of fixes. They proposed to eliminate some and exempt others from retirement calculations. Supervisors also proposed to cut pay and make longer-range pension changes, including setting lower benefits for future hires. The moves won’t take effect unless unionized employees agree.

Click here for a link to the PD’s special Sonoma County employee pension database.

A Press Democrat analysis shows that when they retire, Sonoma County government workers boost their final earnings, and thus their pensions, by an average of more than 12 percent over their annual salaries. The average increase for sheriff’s deputies and other public safety workers is higher, more than 14 percent.

The boost over salary has been as high as 46 percent, according to the analysis of pension records for thousands of former county and special district workers obtained by the newspaper after a protracted legal fight.

Top earners, including elected officials who authorized higher pension benefits a decade ago, have boosted their retirement payments by as much 30 percent over salary.

County officials insist they are well aware of how the extra pay and perks factor into the rise in taxpayer costs.

“What’s a story to you is not news to us,” said county Administrator Veronica Ferguson. “The impact of these things — we understand that. We’ve got our arms around it and we’re trying to reduce that.”

The extra pay and perks are little known to taxpayers but wind up on the retirement bill for county employees.

The boost in final earnings comes in one part from end-of-career moves known as pension “spiking,” including cashouts of unused vacation and other types of leave.

The other part of the boost comes from non-salary pay and benefits received throughout a county employee’s career. Those include training and shift incentives, car and cash allowances and benefits such as county contributions to deferred compensation retirement accounts.

“It’s compensation to employees the public doesn’t necessarily see,” said Jon Holtzman, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in public-sector compensation. “It’s not very transparent.”

The extra compensation does not show up in published salary reports and is only partly monitored by county pension officials. They track leave cashouts, but haven’t regularly distinguished between salary and other types of side pay and benefits.

Sonoma County pension records reveal that the extra pay and perks go to nearly all levels of government workers, with some of the most lucrative benefits reserved for management.

For department heads and elected officials, the boost can include leave cashouts as high as $19,000, an auto allowance of $5,000 to $8,000 and county-paid deferred compensation totals that have run as high as $10,000.

For rank-and-file workers, it can include more than 100 categories of premium pay, received on top of salary for certain job skills, shifts and assignments. Bomb removal, bilingual work and dead-animal disposal, for example, all get premium pay.

Intermediate and advanced accreditation for public safety officers earns them 2.5 percent to 5.4 percent more, respectively, on their hourly salary rate. Differentials for off-hour shifts can add more: up to 17 percent on hourly rates for some workers, all of it pensionable.

The extra pay and perks have drawn fire from fiscal watchdogs concerned about the long-term strain on government budgets.

“These spiking gimmicks are simply raiding public funds and diminishing public services,” said Steven Greenhut, a senior fellow with the Pacific Research Institute, a conservative San Francisco-based think tank. It has estimated that pension spiking costs California taxpayers $100 million a year.

“It’s undermining public trust in the system,” Greenhut said.

Sonoma County pension costs are estimated at $94.3 million this budget year, including payments on pension bond debt. That is 19.28 percent of the county’s total pay and benefit spending.

The pension system’s long-term underfunding is $353 million, with assets reported at $1.87 billion.

Pension officials point to projections they make about the impact of spiking, thus making sure the county and employees contribute enough to cover the higher retirement payments.

Still, the exact impact of the extra compensation on individual pension payments and taxpayer costs has long been unclear, even to many county officials.

County pension officials consistently refused to release records that would shed light on the extra costs until The Press Democrat successfully sued the retirement system for access to the data in 2010.

As part of a settlement stemming from the lawsuit, county pension officials earlier this year turned over detailed information showing final compensation and annual pensions for 2,235 pensioners who entered the county retirement system between 2000 and February 2012. Overall, retired members in the system number just over 4,100.

For 564 pensioners who entered the system since the start of 2010, the breakdown is more detailed. For data on the rest, the retirement association charged The Press Democrat about $8,500 to generate records the system did not have.

Rise in ‘final compensation’

The information shows the extra pay and perks have helped fuel the sharp rise in what retirement officials call “final compensation,” which is workers’ highest single year of earnings and the amount used to compute pensions. It is up 75 percent since 2000, to an average of $91,956 for those who retired in 2011.

Over the same period, the average pension for new retirees rose 107 percent, to $48,269 for those who retired in 2011. For career employees — those with at least 20 years of service — the rise was 109 percent, to an average pension of $74,007.

End-of-career cashouts alone added more than $1 million, or more than 4 percent, to final earnings for the 261 county and special district workers who retired in 2011, records show.

Pension-eligible premiums, allowances and benefits — the ongoing forms of compensation outside of salary — together added about $2.2 million, or 9 percent, to final earnings for the 2011 retirees.

Safety workers benefit more from spiking moves, data for the past two years show. They added 6.4 percent on average to their final earnings through cashouts of accrued leave. The average spike for all other workers was 4.2 percent.

And higher earners benefit most, adding an average of 6.7 percent to their final earnings through cashouts versus the 2.9 percent average spike for those with final compensation of less than $100,000.

The discrepancy between the two income levels shrinks when premiums, allowances and pensionable benefits are added to the cashouts, with high earners adding on average 14.5 percent on top their salary versus 11 percent for lower-paid workers.

The average 4 percent to 6 percent spiking figures for Sonoma County are not as high as other county systems around the state, where cashouts and other end-of-career moves average as high as 24 percent.

Sonoma County retirement records do not reveal other ways of boosting pensions, including final-year salary hikes of 5 percent, which the county offers to appointed department heads in exchange for at least a year’s notice of their retirement.

Another maneuver, a final-year switch by top officials from use of a county car, a perk that is not pensionable, to a car allowance that is pensionable, also was not evident in the retirement records.

Landmark ruling on pensions

In California, the practices that allow government workers to boost pensions have been most generous in the 20 county-run pension systems, including Sonoma County’s.

CalPERS, the giant state employee pension system, which also controls benefits for many cities, banned pension spiking in 1993.

For counties, the situation evolved over decades, as side pay and benefits were offered to recruit and retain workers, and slow the pace of salary increases.

In a landmark 1997 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled much of the extra compensation pensionable.

The ruling was a bombshell for counties, experts say.

“That’s what really set these systems off into deficits,” said Harvey Leiderman, a San Francisco attorney who advises a number of local government pension systems, as well as the state systems CalPERS and CalSTRS.

Stock market losses, especially those in 2008, and the enhanced pension benefits authorized in 2002 by the Board of Supervisors, have proved the dominant factors in underfunding for Sonoma County’s retirement system. The enhanced benefits, combined with higher salaries, are also the major driver of soaring average pension payments in the past decade.

But records show that the wider range of pay and benefits has played a significant factor in the county’s pension-cost woes.

The ballooning cost is evident in individual cases.

Kerns’ $53,542 county pension, for example, is more than twice what his predecessor, Jim Harberson, receives for his 14 years representing the south county.

The difference? Kerns retired from the county under an enhanced pension formula he voted for. He also had a higher salary and more add-ons than Harberson had.

Kerns, a longtime Petaluma police sergeant, also gets a city pension to bring his annual public retirement pay to $105,463.

The top boost in final earnings, at least for the past two years for which records are more detailed, belongs to Michael Knappman, a physician’s assistant with nearly 15 years in the county health department. When he retired in late 2010, Knappman saw his final annual compensation jump by 46 percent over his salary, to $179,749.

The increase was largely the result of $45,185 in standby and premium pay Knappman earned as a forensic examiner responding to sexual assault cases.

He said the long hours and extra pay were not something he manipulated but the result of understaffing in the all-hours unit.

“I had no choice,” he said of the off-hours work. “It was excessive. It led me to leave.”

He gets a pension of just over $78,000 per year, but he is back working part-time for the same county unit, without benefits and without the long, required on-call hours.

The sexual-response unit remains understaffed, he said. And it could prove an example of the challenges facing county leaders in their overhaul of employee pay and pensions.

Knappman said the staffing problems are likely to continue without an increase in on-call pay — the opposite direction county leaders are now pursuing.

“It’s an important service we’re providing,” he said. “(But) people aren’t breaking down the door to do this kind of work.”

Taxpayer outrage

Sonoma County pension officials are tight-lipped about how they see the extra pay and perks affecting taxpayers’ costs.

They point to assumptions they make on leave cashouts, anticipating that public safety workers will add 6 percent to their final earnings and for all other workers about 4 percent. The figures are in line with what The Press Democrat found in its analysis. They translate to a roughly $6,000 spike for public safety retirees and a $3,300 spike for all other workers, records show.

“We anticipate it and work to prefund it,” said Gary Bei, administrator of the Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association.

For taxpayers, however, who have been left to rescue public pension systems in the wake of stock market losses, reports about the last-minute increases can trigger further outrage.

The blowback is fueled in part by the growing lack of retirement security for private-sector workers, who’ve seen guaranteed pension benefits largely eliminated in recent decades and private retirement accounts tank in the stock market freefall.

It is also fueled by concern about continued erosion of public services, as Sonoma County and other local and state governments grapple with stagnant tax revenue and rising payroll costs.

Generous pension benefits are at the center of that math problem.

“If you care about government services, you ought to care about what’s happening to pensions,” said Holtzman, the San Francisco attorney who is advising the cities of San Jose and Stockton on overhaul of their pension systems.

Sonoma County’s pension costs are set to climb to nearly 21 percent of total payroll in 2015, according to the county. It’s a rise that’s prompted all members of the current Board of Supervisors to call the system unsustainable.

Even Kerns, the former supervisor who benefits from a system he helped shape, shared his unease over past pension decisions.

“I have to look back and say, ‘Logically, was that the right thing to do?’ ” he said. “In the future, I think we need to be more cautious and conservative about those decisions.”

‘Spiking’ pension by cashing out benefits

Just before they retire, Sonoma County government employees can increase the amount they will get in their pensions by cashing out accrued leave, including vacation and holiday hours.

The practice is often referred to as “pension spiking.”

It adds an average of 6.4 percent to public safety pensions in the county, and 4.2 percent for all other employees, retirement records show.

The average annual pension for a career public safety officer who retired in 2011 was about $94,500. The average for other workers was about $68,000.

Sonoma County’s highest-paid officials add the most money to their final earnings through spiking moves, records show.

Rod Dole, the former auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector, added $19,994, the most of any retiree in the past 12 years. Dole is the county’s highest-paid pensioner, receiving $254,625 a year.

Below Dole, other former officials that added more than $18,500 to their final earnings — the figure on which pensions are computed — are: Randy Poole, the former Water Agency general manager; Mary Maddux-Gonzalez, the former public health officer; Bill Cogbill, the former sheriff; and Jo Weber, former director of the Human Services Department.

For the group, the cashouts boosted final earnings by 9 percent to 10 percent.

For the elected officials, Dole and Cogbill, the totals came through cashouts of administrative leave, a bonus they accrued throughout their career, up to 200 hours of which are pension-eligible.

Department heads and managers have a lower cap, allowing cashouts of up to 80 hours combined of administrative leave and vacation. They also get holidays and sick time, which can be converted to increase pensions.

For rank-and-file workers, the cashouts and conversions include up to 80 hours of vacation, 13 holidays, 17 hours of floating holidays and 24 hours of sick leave.

The caps are lower than in some other county pension systems in the state, where cashouts and other end-of-career moves alone can spike pensions by 30 percent.

Contra Costa County assumes cashouts and other “terminal pay” additions add an average of 12 percent to 16 percent for most of its employee groups, with the top average at 24 percent.

Two fire chiefs in that county system drew national media attention three years ago for spiking their final earnings and pensions by as much as 30 percent.

By comparison, the top spike in the past 12 years for Sonoma County was 20 percent, by Roy Loden, an investigator in the District Attorney’s Office, who cashed out $17,123 in leave toward his final earnings.

Contra Costa County has since taken steps to limit such moves. But Bill Pollacek, the county’s retired treasurer-tax collector, who served on its retirement board, still calls Contra Costa County “the pension spiking capital of the world.”

“What’s happening in your county is happening in virtually every other county in the state,” he said. “Every system has its own way.”

Unions guarded on planned overhaul

Any overhaul of the Sonoma County pension system faces mounting challenges, including opposition from unions and inaction in Sacramento.

A group of state legislators is expected to roll out proposed reforms for local and state systems this month, but they are expected to encounter resistance from organized labor.

Under the package of changes endorsed by the Board of Supervisors last week, final-year bonuses for department heads would be eliminated along with the county-paid contributions to deferred compensation accounts that benefit managers and elected officials most, adding up to 6 percent to salaries.

The perks have been under constant fire from union leaders.

“If you’re already paid a really generous salary, having all these extras that add 15 percent to final salary seems like it could be abusive,” said Lathe Gill, area director for Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, the county’s largest labor group.

The average boost over salary for county employees with final compensation of at least $100,000 is 14.5 percent.

For their part, representatives for Sonoma County government managers said they have little choice but to accept the pension overhaul proposal, which also eliminates, for pension purposes, cashouts of accrued vacation and other leave, and would set lower benefit tiers for future workers.

“Considering the county’s (fiscal) situation, it’s inevitable that changes have to be made,” said Lou Maricle, chairman of the Sonoma County Administrative Management Council, the largest management group.

The SEIU, which represents about half the county’s 3,400 workers, has remained guarded about larger changes to the pension system, including the lower benefit tiers for future hires.

Such systems tend to pit generations of workers against each other, Gill said. Other changes may be in order, he added, suggesting the union would look at the proposed elimination of leave cashouts from pension consideration and reduction in premium pay categories.

“We recognize that our members do have some spiking opportunities. We think those things can be perceived as abusive and that there are acceptable reforms,” he said.

The proposed move from a single-year total to a three-year average for final compensation when computing pension amounts is one the union might agree to, Gill suggested.

A representative of the county’s largest group of public safety workers suggested his members could agree to a lower tier of benefits for future workers, but would oppose a rollback in premium pay and shift differentials. Such incentives are needed to fill off-hour duties and improve training, said Ed Clites, president of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association.

“We fought long and hard to get those things,” he said. “I don’t see those going away. If they did, we would oppose it.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.)

(News Researcher Teresa Meikle compiled and analyzed retirement records for 2,235 pensioners for this report. Her work serves as the basis for the graphs presented here. News Researcher Janet Balicki also contributed to the report.)

64 Responses to “Sonoma County employee perks pay off in retirement”

  1. Skippy says:

    All the blustering outrage in the world won’t stop the pension train from hurtling into the ravine.
    Just keep cashing those retmt checks like they are never going to end.

    I am reminded of the fellow to whom the ATM keeps spitting out cash w/o him earning it.
    Then he gets all postal when the judge tells him to give it back.
    This is all going to end very badly for Big Govt and the taxpaying saps that finance their excesses.

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  2. Union Guy says:

    You can declae BK when you are NOT. Sonoma County has a balanced budget this year. You can’t claim that something will BK you in 10 years and declare now. It does not work that way. All because you like it does not give you the option to declare BK and walk away. Like it or not, Sonoma County CAN afford it for now. The fix is in the works and changes are being made. Cool off.

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  3. Stephen hann says:

    This is insane, why doesn’t the County just file for bankruptcy, perhaps a federal judge, with no personal stake in the outcome, will void these unconscionable and unsustainable practices.
    All of us who were criticized 10 years ago when we predicted governor gray davis’ attempt to keep his governorship by giving the unions excessive benefits have would lead to financial chaos were, sadly correct.

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  4. Union Guy says:

    A Deputy with 30 plus years on has a base salary of $92000. Not $51000. You named him in an earlier post. He got motorcycle hazard pay, bi-lingual pay and cashed in some sick time and vacation he did not use his last year. Each specialty is worth at least 5% except bi-lingual, it is only worth 92 cents an hour to the county so most dont put in for it.

    I won’t spend a lot of time educating you, it is all on the county website, dig in. But watch out, you may trip on the facts.

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  5. Big Jim says:

    Here is an example of the real problem from data in the Press Demo’s database:
    A person retired last year from a Deputy Sheriff job in Sonoma County. His last year base pay was $51,616.14. He also was paid $19,983.73 in Overtime and $50,690.15 in “Other Pay”. He is now receiving an annual pension of $117,996 per year. *More than double base pay!*
    He worked a 33.15 year career and was paid a total of about $1.48 million over his career in base and OT pay. If he lives to 80 and is around 50 now, then he will receive $5.6 million in retirement pay, not including medical benefits. Contribution to the retirement plan will not cover this!
    Who in the private sector will receive four times more in retirement than during their entire paid career? Taxpayers are on the hook to make up for SCERA and CALPERS obvious inability to fund such exorbitantly generous pensions!
    The only solution is defined contributions – where we pay an agreed amount into a retirement fund for workers and they draw from that plus any investment gains the plan produces. That way taxpayer’s don’t face this black hole of funding the shortfall in defined benefit plans society can’t possibly afford!

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  6. jenny says:

    we county employees who do the actual work, are the ones who keep getting cut, while the higher ups, somehow miss each and every cut. we get our hours cut, we get laid off, we have to do the work that our cut coworkers used to do, doing several people’s jobs, in less time and for less money. we have managers who are getting all the perks, car bonuses of $7,000 a year, deferred comp -money put into their account not contributed by them but by the county, the BOS keep getting raises, while we haven’t had a cost of living increase in years, we have managers managing NO ONE, or one employee, or two employees. the higher ups have been running free and getting away with all kinds of unsustainable behavior that is causing this unsustainability, and who is blamed? not them, no, us the people doing the actual work. helloooooo….get the statistics, how many of us FULL TIME employees have kids who are uninsured, who get help when they’re sick at the free clinic, who are on Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. doesn’t the fact that we qualify income-wise for gov’t health insurance say something? do you honestly believe we are ALL living the good life? c’mon get real
    there is a VAST DIFFERENCE, a HUGE GAP between the haves and the have nots
    and that’s all the union is trying to fix
    they aren’t greedy pigs
    they see taht we are scared, we are scared to add our names to these comments, we are scared of the ever looming cuts upon cuts upon cuts, we are scared we are going to be laid off next-all the while watching our “superiors” wasting tax payer money, making foolish choices that we never had a say in, and sitting back without a care in the world. tax payers deserve better than this. schools are getting cut emergency services are getting cut, roads aren’t being fixed-while they live luxuriously and LOVE THE FACT that the public opinion is that we all are contributing to this mess….NOT! but we’re scared to give details, don’t follow the smoke and mirrors, don’t believe the hype-think for yourself, read between the lines, we didn’t cause this mess.
    We go to work everyday, we work hard, we are being screwed here, we are your neighbors, our kids go to your schools, we are the ones helping you when you call for services. please know the truth, please stop this crazy villagers with torches aflame out to get all the public employees.
    we just want to be able to afford health insurance for our kids, we have been cut and cut and cut, all we are asking is that it’s fair. it’s not fair that they skipped out on every cut, pay, hours, getting laid off. and they want to cut us more and we are finally saying enough is enough!
    hear us!
    we can’t get cut anymore!

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  7. Miss Peach says:


    “The last decade has seen a rate of return on the fund’s assets of 1.6%. They STILL expect over 7.75%. Look at CalPERS. They STILL expect a 7.75% return annually when they realize a 1% return.”

    Jim, if you, unfamiliar with the concept of averages as you are, are an auditor, then I am an astronaut.

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  8. Oscar Meyer says:


    “Look at the state – $500+ BILLION unfunded, while the state continues to run a budget deficit.”


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  9. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Bill Sullivan-I wish that the BOS were puppets of SEIU. If that were the case then managers would be losing their jobs right now and had their perks taken away from them back in 2008/2009 when SEIU rank and file were being laid off in droves by management decision and BOS approval. Also, contracting out of rank and file jobs wouldn’t be happening and SEIU employees wouldn’t be receiving pink slips RIGHT NOW. Shirley personally told me when I was working on her 1st campaign that she didn’t believe in contracting out county jobs and would work on raising the manager to rank and file ratio. She’s done just the opposite. Efren has always been a fan of contracting out and so has Valerie.

    So get a clue will you. SEIU IS NOT THE PROBLEM, MANAGEMENT IS and they aren’t union. We need MORE rank and file and fewer high paid, high perk managers.

    One department who is doing a excellent job is Family Support. They reorganized and have few managers to rank and file employees (the highest ratio in the county). Because of this, they have creative, experienced workers pulling in all kinds of money. Compare Family Support to DHS that has a very low management to rank and file ratio with lots of contracting out and you can see the difference in cost to the tax payers. All the departments need to be reorganized to match Family Support to improve and maintain services to the community and CUT COSTS.

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  10. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    GAJ- the lowest paid with the fewest benefits are the inhome support workers. They do a magnificent job which keeps people in their homes instead of being institutionalized which costs in the thousands of dollars a month. They are SEIU and SEIU fights for them. They deserve better, yet they are the first to be cut by the state. Glad you understand this. I agree about the safety employees. Please remember (I don’t know what district you are in) that Sawyer has already been endorsed by the county safety unions and you know why. SEIU has endorsed Gorin because we know she will be fair and unbiased. However, not much money that SEIU can give to her.

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  11. Bill Sullivan says:

    All of this blathering by the county Board of Supervisors about “pension reform” will come to nothing given the fact they all have a very vested interest in the current pension and pay scheme.

    In addition, SEIU and the other public unions financed their campaigns and got out the votes to elect them. So these puppets are moved by the hands of SEIU.

    That is why all of this smoke and mirror talk about county pension reform is just talk. The Board said as much when they voted 5-0 to do something and then turned around and said, all of this is subject to negotiations. So we know where that is going.

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  12. Union Guy says:

    Jim is misinformed but wont admit it.
    He audits pension funds and doenst know the right numbers? 1.6% for SCERA for 10 years? Really? I wont even correct that and do your work for you. Healthcare pension debt? Seriously? Sonoma County ended that in 2007 and flat rated it. Nothing unfunded in healthcare, known hard numbers. They are available for all who seek facts, not little internet factoids that paint th slant.

    Good luck with the union banning thing. Start with the 1st Ammendment and go from there.

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  13. Angry Taxpayer says:

    Brett is doing a fabulous job exposing the out of touch Board and Administration to the Public. The system is complex and ripe for abuse. Jo Weber and Randy Poole also have reciprocity with other pension systems so the check they get from SCERA is only a small part of their full taxpayer funded retirement. Ms. Weber’s primary retirement would come from Riverside County where she spent the bulk of her career. To get the full picture you would need to find out how much her taxpayer funded retirement is from both Counties.

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  14. JUSTAoldDude says:

    Tom and Lisa….you are both right in some important ways….and I can add another thing that you may agree upon…

    For starters, Lisa is correct that department heads’ salaries were raised faster than rank and file, way faster. The reason for this is the “recruit the best and brightest” excuse, pulling more from outside the county than inside the county. The population of DH’s became transient (more on that later).

    Tom is right in that the entire groups’ pensions went up, due in part at least, and a big part at that, to medical benefits of $7,000 per year that are “pensionable.” (Tom, Lisa will remind us, correctly, that the contract calling for those benefits was opposed by 1021, and imposed by the BOS).

    Now get this…the reason transient leaders push so hard for salary over stabililty, and are eager to trade other benefits, like medical, for pay is that their Sonoma County pay becomes the basis for their prior jobs’ penssion pay outs.

    They will never make a “Sonoma list” because they will collect many pensions. But, those pensions will be based on their highest pay, and that’s what they are after.

    BTW…most DHs had almost nothing to do with setting their salaries; HR and CAO make recommendations to the BOS.

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  15. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Tom Lynch-you don’t say ONE WORD about the rank and file to managers ratio of less than 6:1. The county has ADDED managers since those numbers were calculated by SEIU from last year’s numbers. They are continuing to add managers. You mention the loss of rank and file jobs. Just where do you think that money went? Some was saved the rest went to managers that replaced those rank and file jobs. Listen to Lisa M.-she says it right. We need more rank and file UNION people on the frontline to provide services to the community. We need all departments to be reorganized to function better for the community-NOT KEEP ADDING MANAGERS who don’t provide the direct services the public needs. We need more rank and file to be ready to go when there is a disaster-not more high paid managers.

    When people walk into the permit office to get their permits, they need rank and file to facilitate services quickly. When a disaster hits, we need more Public Health nurses ready and able to go out in the community to make sure people stay healthy, more road crews to repair the streets, more safety employees to protect the people and so on.

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  16. GAJ says:

    Lisa, I sympathize with the members of SEIU…my daughter was a member (in home care) and my very good friend’s wife is a current member, (a facility that takes care of abandoned, neglected or abused children).

    To say that their work was demanding and their pay low and their benefits were meager would be an understatement.

    But, you make a mistake in implying rank and file are all in the same boat.

    Rank and file in Public Safety make, on average, and I’m guessing here, about 3 times what the average SEIU member earns in government and their benefits are at least 3 times more generous.

    All rank and file are not equal.

    Public Safety is eating SEIU’s lunch and causing their members to be held down and or laid off.

    The managers, supervisors and directors are complicit in all of this, and, as you imply, benefit far beyond anything that could be called rational and sustainable.

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  17. Jim says:

    I find the whole “management” vs “rank and file” discussion meaningless. The facts show that the promises are far beyond what can be delivered. And the deficit keeps growing year after year with more and more people being hired under the same system. It doesn’t matter whether the pension is $20,000/year or $100,000/year. The bottom line is that the system is bankrupt. Period. When the well is dry, it doesn’t matter whether you are trying to get a gallon of water or a glass of water…there’s no freaking water!

    The public employee pension system is bankrupt at every level. Look at the state – $500+ BILLION unfunded, while the state continues to run a budget deficit. The county (already provided the figures in a previous post) is broke. Cities are broke, with some declaring bankruptcy (many more are going to). The numbers are the numbers. The dopey taxpayers who keep electing the same people will end up footing the bill.

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  18. Skippy says:

    Ms. Bird,

    Of course, shouting down your opponent is SOP for union thugs and collectivists.
    But I repeat myself.

    Here is an example:
    · Here is the Left in 1999 in the “Battle of Seattle” trashing the city during the meeting of the World Trade Organization. Notice the guy in the mustache at 38 seconds in? That’s the current president (and then treasurer) of the United Steelworkers union, Leo Gerard. Gerard is now an Obama appointee to an advisory post in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Really. Mr. Gerard was spotted in Seattle (he is said to have brought 1,400 other union members with him) helping to move concrete barricades to obstruct the Seattle police in their futile attempt to keep the peace. Some $20 million in damage was done to the city by rioting Leftists.

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  19. Lisa Maldonado says:

    @Tom Lynch My problem with the PD is not the fact that they are reporting on the pension issue. It’s that they omit the important distinction between management and directors and rank and file line staff. In doing this they write all these headline about public “employees” and their unions making huge “perks” and “excessive pensions” but neglect to mention that the ranks of those with 6 figure pensions and deferred comp are almost entirely Supervisors, Fire and Police Captains and Managers and Directors, WHO ARE MANAGEMENT. This framing of the issue as one of “greedy unions” and unions who “hire” their bosses is patently untrue and in fact, union workers have given back raises and taken umpaid furloughs while the County continues to hire managers at inflated salaries.
    I appreciate your offer to “educate’ me, but I really don’t see how you are in any way an “expert” on pensions and taxes and feel yourself qualified to take others to task on these issues.

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  20. GAJ says:

    Jim, you’re exactly right.

    How a pension system can be considered sustainable when contributions per employee are based on average pay during a career but the payout is based on highest years’ pay is beyond me…even with 7.5% “expected” annual returns.

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  21. Kerns screws us again says:

    What the PD didn’t mention in this excellent article is that Mike Kerns’ county pension is his SECOND public pension. He retired with full pension benefits as a Petaluma cop, before he ran for supervisor. Another $50K+ per year from the taxpayers?

    Then he made sure that the county’s retirement funds would cover him and his cronies at the top in spades.

    Sure looks like ‘living on the Dole’ is a wonderful club for the old boys in Sonoma County.

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  22. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Bill Me-Susan Gorin may be supported by SEIU and other unions in the county but the unions DON’T HAVE THE money that Sawyer has to get elected. Susan doesn’t have the money Sawyer has flowing in from big corporate groups. She is NOT going to cater to the unions, just give the unions a fair shake, a voice on the BOS. You are deluded if you think that any BOS are in the pocket with SEIU and other county unions. Look at Shirley for instance who was endorsed by SEIU. She’s been contracting out services when she personally told me when I was working on her first campaign that she wouldn’t. Contracting out is union busting in my eyes. She’s also approved more new high cost, high perks management positions.
    As for Sawyer, you deliberately left out his catering to the city safety unions who GOT RAISES while the rest of the city workforce TOOK CUTS. He is also being supported by the county safety employee unions. I don’t have to wonder why. He’s already proven himself to them. Being that the safety employees are the ones best able to pad their pensions (and management of course who are NOT UNION)I’m not voting for Sawyer because he’s NOT the man to save county money.

    I will vote for Susan Gorin and work for her campaign because I believe she will be the more balanced and practical candidate. AND SHE IS ACCESSIBLE WHILE SAWYER IS NOT. This was my primary complaint about Valerie Brown. SHE HAS NEVER RESPONDED the few times I’ve written her.

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  23. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    As someone who reads the Civil Service meeting minutes regularly there is new news for you all. Not only is the county NOT CUTTING MANAGEMENT POSITIONS, but in a time they are trying to cut the income of rank and file staff (SEIU and ESC)who are having to drop their family members off their health insurance (now unaffordable) they are ADDING THREE BRAND NEW MANAGEMENT POSITIONS TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH. DHS is ALREADY TOP HEAVY WITH MANAGEMENT and rank and file staff were laid off in 2008/2009 to contracting while the dept added MORE MANAGERS since that time.
    Yep, folks, 3 BRAND NEW PROGRAM PLANNING ANALYSTS. Pretty soon there won’t be any rank and file staff in DHS, just managers as far as the eye can see. One hopes, in the time of a disaster, there will be FIRST RESPONDERS left in the county who know what they are doing.
    Personally I am outraged. Apparently, the managers make the decisions and the BOS approves ALL OF THEM no matter what. If the BOS were REALLY SERIOUS about cutting costs they would be ELIMINATING managers not adding more high paying, high perked staff at the expense of the rank and file who WORK FOR AND WITH YOU.
    If you are serious about cutting costs I suggest you contact your BOS representative and tell them you want to see a sincere effort on their part TO CUT MANAGEMENT POSITIONS and bring the rank and file ratio to management into the REAL WORLD.

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  24. Tom Lynch says:

    “The Press Democrat’s anti worker and anti union reporting continues.”

    @Lisa M

    You would have us kill the messenger for bringing the truth to bear that will ultimately help save union jobs and government services. The first wave of retiring baby boomers controlling the unions, the managers of government and most elected officials are far more responsible for the loss of union jobs than the Press Democrat, a union shop no less.

    If you haven’t noticed Lisa we are almost a thousand good union and management jobs down at the County since 2004, from 4400 workers to 3500; much of the loss due to massive unfunded pension obligations. Almost all of these lost positions are due to retirement without the funds to rehire, and between the lines of lost jobs and services are tremendous social consequences with some literally dying for lack of services once provided.

    The trade unions don’t require the employer to guarantee an 8% return over the actual 1% returns SCERA has recieved on a $2 Billion liability. For five years now Sonoma County has paid in and incurred a debt 150% more than the salaries paid, to feed an unsustainable pension system.

    To try to maintain the current corrupt system, risks the loss of all that labor has struggled to achieve for generations. Trade unionists are starting to see this and it is time you start figuring this out too Lisa.

    Would love to meet and help educate you to the realities we need to work together to resolve


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  25. Jim says:

    @Miss Peach…

    “Jim, if you haven’t gotten yet that retirees are paid by SCERA, the retirement association of the County, rather than by the County, then there is no hope for you.”

    I audit pension funds and know how they work. When the contributions and “investment returns” fall short the taxpayer foots the bill. The paltry contributions by the government worker never lead to a fully funded pension. The estimated returns of the fund never meet expectations. The last decade has seen a rate of return on the fund’s assets of 1.6%. They STILL expect over 7.75%. Look at CalPERS. They STILL expect a 7.75% return annually when they realize a 1% return.

    SCERA has the highest pension debt per capita of any county in the state. The pension fund’s debt is over $500 MILLION, and underfunded by $380 MILLION (as of Sept 2011). Add in healthcare and the bond debt issued to fill the last hole and the combination is over $1.1 BILLION.

    Sonoma County has more retirees than employees.

    Given those FACTS, I would say that there may be hope for me, but there is NO HOPE that Sonoma COunty will avoid bankruptcy.

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  26. jgt says:

    Thank you for a great informative article! I feel many of your readers missed the mark though. Yes managements pensions are outrageous,but there cost is not near as much as what we are paying out to the rank and file workers in public safety.
    You state the average pension for a public safety employee retiring in 2011 was $94,500. If ten policeman and fireman
    retired in 2011 that is $940,000 per year!
    With that type of pension an individual who retired at 50 years of age and lived to be 82 would cost the tax payers over $3,000,000!! That is were the real money is.

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  27. Bill me says:

    Follow the money. If you want change, see who SEIU contributes to. Susan Gorin is supported by the SEIU. Think if she gets elected she will vote for County reform of public pensions? She was just at their rally severalweeks ago with microphone in hand! Vote for Sawyer!

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  28. Follower says:

    When a Private Sector Union demands too much, the company closes down and all the Union members are no longer “Union Members” but become 99’rs instead.

    THAT is the reality that keeps Private Sector Unions in line.
    …except this one:

    But Public Employee Unions can demand & demand with complete confidence that the “company” will never go out of business no matter how much they get.
    And the “CEO” knows that no matter how upset the “shareholders” and the “customers” get with his capitulation, as long as he has Union backing he has absolute Job Security.

    So go head, stomp your feet and throw your temper tantrum here on this digital rag today and tomorrow go vote the CEO another term and raise your neighbor’s taxes to pay for his reckless waste of OUR money.

    Or support the banning of Public Employee Unions and put an end to this insanity!

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  29. Snarky says:

    GAJ : I fully agree.

    Prison is where some of these so called “leaders” belong.

    But we are powerless to prosecute them because the DA’s office is part of the public employee pension system.

    Its called a “conflict of interest” in the private sector.

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  30. Very Angry Taxpayer says:

    @ Miss Peach,

    I was not making fun of anyone’s name.
    I was just pointing out how aptly
    Mr. Dole’s own surname describes the manner in which he enjoys his retirement…on the Dole.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 6

  31. bloated says:

    Only the top of the food chain reap
    the large payouts on pensions…

    Why?? They get more Vacation, car allowances, etc….

    Only way to trim this goat is to chop
    of the layers of management and
    stop the pension spiking as they get more
    to go out the door..

    A 5 % percent bump for one year notice to
    leave , who gets that anywhere??

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 1

  32. Missy says:

    Lisa, you and I rarely agree, but please listen to Lisa. She is right. I’ve been a gov’t worker and the pay for those at the bottom is not very good and the pension is a joke. She is RIGHT about this. Those at the top are making inflated salaries.

    FWIW, my pension was a joke, it will pay my healthcare & it was $1000 a month. And that is what my healthcare would be. I decided not to take it at that time.

    But LISA, since I have you on the phone here, why doesn’t any Union fight for it’s workers in the workplace, eh? SEIU and 3 other Unions have let good people get fired. GOOD PEOPLE who do their work well, make that 4 other Unions. Wait, make that 5 other unions. That Macy’s union is reeeeeallly bad btw, they STEAL from the rank & file’s pensions!

    IMHO, again, since I have your attention, Unions need to go back to the workplace and defend workers from egregious management practices. Your Unions are doing buggerall for the people working!

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  33. Lets be Reasonable says:

    One thing that is not mentioned here that caused pensions to climb was the health care conversion. In its infinite wisdom, the County decided to cut costs by sharply limiting what they would pay towards health care premiums. To quite the protests, they gave everyone $600 / month in extra salary, that would dwindle over time since it would not be affected by COLAs. But it turns out that this is pensionable – making up a large portion of the “pay increases” and pensions – especially for lower paid employees.

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  34. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Mockingbird – while I normally agree with much of what you say, not all management is equal. The ridiculous salaries occur at the very top – BOS and department heads and division managers. Below that, most managers get reasonable salaries. Many professionals are put into management as a way of compensating them closer to what they could make in the private sector. After the current round of cuts, these folks will have little in the way of perks beyond what non-management employees will have.

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  35. Chuck G says:

    Oh, that old phrase comes to mind….

    You get what you pay for!!

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  36. Accountable says:

    @Miss Peach – Sonoma County pension payouts are not self-sufficient. Please read Section 4: Appendix B (page #55) of SCERA’s Actuarial Valuation. It is titled “Schedule of Additional (non-SCERA) Employer contributions”; Pension Obligation Bonds covered by Sonoma County Taxpayers http://www.scretire.com/pdf/documents/ActuarialValuation2011.pdf. In FY 2010/2011, we (taxpayers) paid an additional 15.55% of payroll to keep the funding ratio from falling below 80% on 3 separate occasions. As you can see, that percentage is expected to increase.

    And, please, spare me the “we’re taxpayers, too” mantra. Sonoma County Employees represent a little more than 1% of the population. So, the vast majority of the population is paying additional funds to keep SCERA afloat.

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  37. Steveguy says:

    Well done PD ! To all of you rank-and-file workers and supporters — Time to blow the whistle. You can contact Brett easily.

    Go ahead, make out days ! Name names and how they waste, take ‘extra’ public money, spend taxpayer dollars for personal items. Etc, etc, etc.

    This whole corrupt situation isn’t caused by the rank and file. They actually suffer from their ‘managers’ raping the public. They have lost my trust in them. And am losing trust in the rank and file for NOT speaking loud and clear ( even anonymously, if your statements can be confirmed by journalistic standards ).

    Ya, Public Self-servants. Oh my

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  38. Jean Anderson says:

    All you idiots who continue to vote for these corrupt, self-serving clowns simply because they are Democrats or liberals need to look in the mirror. YOU too are to blame for this mess.

    At least you can see where any higher taxes will go – NOT to schools or roads, but into the pockets of these kind of political scumbags.

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  39. Union Guy says:

    Michael says it all. It is not about reform. It is about hammering and taking away everything. He wrote it out, take it all away.
    Your word “Reform”, is the new code word for revenge. Payback. I found someone making more money than me and I can vote to take their money, woo hoo. Down with the clerks and health workers, alright! If I can vote to to take away the pension of theat lousy, no good cop who caught me with my recreationa meth, too cool. Let me vote to hammer them all. We can hide behind the cloke of sustainability. The unions solved this problem 3 times over, but we have the same problem as the public. We cant get the polititcians to fix it when we solve it. Yep, it sucks for all of us, but we aren’t seeking vengance.

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  40. Lisa Maldonado says:

    Once again, I must point out that the top “earners” or “workers” pictured above are MANAGERS, CAPTAINS AND DIRECTORS and NOT public employee rank and file members. I can’t understand why the PD continues to mislead readers by omitting the the facts that union members have been decrying the outrageous management salaries and fighting against the deferred comp for years! It is only because of SEIU that management’s excessive deferred comp is on the table at all. Workers are taxpayers and we are all appalled that so many Managers and Directors continue to receive excessively large salaries while workers are being furloughed and blamed and the public’s services being cut. The Press Democrat’s anti worker and anti union reporting continues.

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  41. Lisa Maldonado says:

    Once again, I have to point out that all of these top “earners” or “workers” pictured above are MANAGERS, CAPTAINS AND DIRECTORS and NOT public employee rank and file members. I can’t understand why the PD continues to mislead readers by omitting the the facts that union members have been decrying the outrageous management salaries and fighting against the deferred comp for years! It is only because of SEIU that management’s excessive deferred comp is on the table at all. Workers are taxpayers and we are all appalled that so many Managers and Directors continue to receive excessively large salaries while workers are being furloughed and public services being cut. The Press Democrat’s anti worker and anti union reporting continues.

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  42. Miss Peach says:

    @Very Angry Taxpayer

    Have we really stooped to making fun of folks’s names? See me after class.

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  43. Miss Peach says:


    “I bet every taxpayer is happy that they continue to pay Mr. Poole, the former water agency general manager, $127,982 per year for no longer working for them… .”

    Jim, if you haven’t gotten yet that retirees are paid by SCERA, the retirement association of the County, rather than by the County, then there is no hope for you. Mr. Poole’s retirement stipend is founded on his contributions during his working career, the Water Agency’s contributions during his working career, and investment returns from Wall Street.

    Perhaps you should take up commenting on a subject which is less complex.

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  44. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Please notice from this article that the big perks are going to management. PENSIONABLE PERKS. Please remember that there are more managers (the ratio of rank and file staff to management is less than 6:1). This county has been getting MORE top heavy and that top needs to be culled big big time (brand new management positions have been added since the first of the year with the blessing of the BOS). They are also the ones that laid off rank and file staff and protected themselves and their perks in 2008/2009. The management are the ones making the decisions and the BOS approves EVERY ONE. Managers also are able to accumulate large amounts of sick leave because they “flex” their time for appointments (essentially using work time for appt). Rank and file staff have to take their sick leave so it’s hard to accumulate very much to do any padding of their pensions.
    As a citizen of Sonoma County I demand that the BOS cull those managers. Lay off 44 managers. At a average salary of $100,000 that’s $4.4M not counting the money save on “perks and benefits” (probably another $1.5M). Get rid of all county paid deferred comp and that adds another $4M. That’s $9.5M saved right there. Use that money to hire back those CHEAPER rank and file staff who SERVE THE PUBLIC and put the rest to roads.

    One manager gone pays for 2 to 3 rank and file staff. So every new management position created eliminates the SAME number of rank and file staff and takes away services from the community to boot. The public deserves better.

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  45. Miss Peach says:


    “Governor Jerry Brown himself qualifies by his own admission for THREE separate public employee pensions.”

    So what? Holding jobs under three separate pension systems qualifies a person to collect three separate pensions. Are you suggesting that all three are going to be 100% of his current salary?

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 30

  46. Taxpayer says:

    I thought these things only happen in third world countries. Is that where we are headed?

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 10

  47. Jim says:

    Though the idea of paying a government worker for life starting at age 50 or 55 is completely ridiculous, what is even more ridiculous is that CA voters continue to re-elect the same representatives from the same party over and over. These representatives are the ones who are in bed with the unions who come up with the benefits everyone is pretending to be up in arms about.

    These pensions are simply redistribution of wealth. Those who earn income pay taxes into the system. Only 50% of the population pays into the system, and the top 10% of earners pay almost 40% of ALL income taxes, the HIGHEST in history (so much for the “not paying their fair share” argument). The taxes are then paid to government workers and the a variety of government programs. Those on government programs aren’t paying into the income tax system. They vote for the party that promises to increase their dependency, I mean, their “benefits”. The unions (government workers) vote for the same party, the party that is bribed by with union dues. The President, also a member of the same party, surrounds himself with people who believe in redistribution of wealth. The President says he wants to redistribute the wealth and “fundamentally change the system”.

    Given all that, the same party berates the “millionaires and billionaires”, the very people who pay the VAST MAJORITY of the taxes that they redistribute. This is all done under the LIE of “fairness” and “equal opportunity”.

    The November election will come and go. The same liars and thieves will be re-elected. The same theft of money from those who earn it will happen, and be redistributed to those who the politicians believe deserve it. God forbid that those who earn money should keep it. And the cycle will continue.

    CA will have an unfunded liability close to $1 TRILLION in a few years. The Federal Government has an unfunded liability of over $15 TRILLION. The system will collapse. No one is paying attention. Doesn’t matter…Can’t wait for the media to grill Obama on the important issues like who he thinks will win the World Series.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 10

  48. Snarky says:

    Congratulations to the Press Demo for the best, most accurate, most complete article I’ve ever seen them publish.

    BRETT WILKISON : you did a fabulous job !!

    Could this type of reporting be due to the fact that the Press Democrat was purchased and can no longer keep cozy with the local government people?

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  49. michael vlastnik says:

    Hopefully seeing someone like Kearns as the poster boy for these ludicris pensions will prompt some sort of public outcry. The pensions are nothing more than they’ve ever been. A scam. Simply put money for nothing. Well worth the cost of going thru the legal system to eliminate them one and all. And the undeserved health benefits that accompany them. Take away the pensions!

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  50. Jim says:

    I bet every taxpayer is happy that they continue to pay Mr. Poole, the former water agency general manager, $127,982 per year for no longer working for them, as well as the current water agency general manager around the same amount. I wonder if the taxpayer is still paying the water agency general manager who worked before Mr. Poole an annual salary. This is such an important position that it should cost the taxpayer $300,000/year, plus benefits.

    Because paying former government workers their salary for life, while they most likely double dip with another government agency, is SO IMPORTANT don’t forget to vote in November for MORE of your paycheck to go to the government. It is MUCH more important to pay the retirement of government workers than it is to fund your own.

    While we’re at it, lets pay even more in taxes to keep the parks open. This will ensure that the millions upon millions of taxpayer money that is hidden in secret accounts and wasted on vacation payouts doesn’t have to be spent on actually running the government.

    Remember, us earners not only have to pay for former government workers, current government workers, unnecessary government departments staffed by useless government employees and secret programs where government workers pay themselves for vacations. And barely HALF of people actually PAY TAXES!! They certainly know how to spend OUR MONEY better than we do!!

    The State, County, Cities and Feds all need MORE OF YOUR MONEY! Make sure to vote accordingly to continue to fund the bloated embarrassment that we call our “representatives”.

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  51. Another Angry Taxpayer says:

    Can this be true? If so, we the public need to take control before our governments, that we fund, with our tax dollars, becomes a larger ATM for government employees. Where is the Taxpayers Association? Why is there not a ballot measure already in draft?

    Thumb up 41 Thumb down 7

  52. Grapevines says:

    Welcome to Bell, California-North!!

    Corruption, Greed, Avarice, just all part of doing business and having to satisfy the Board Of Stupid-visors!

    You have to ask yourself, how do these criminals keep getting re-elected??

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  53. Que Sera says:

    Unfortunately local politicians like those all over California have learned they can use taxpayer money to buy votes and keep themselves in office and thus on the public dole!
    Our system is corrupt because civil employees have given themselves perks on the publics dime.
    As we are a supposed democracy (republic) and the people are sovereign, they can overturn anything govt does in any manner they chose(revolution if necessary)! We cant have citizens playing by the rules while those in govt exempt themselves from the same rules!

    Let retirees get their pension from someone other than the PEOPLE~ Govt only relies on rules when it is in govts interest and not necessary that of the public!

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  54. Snarky says:

    Time to put something on the State ballot, by voter initiative, that will end this public employee pension scam against the public.

    The criminal politicians are all part of it and have zero intention of ending it.

    Governor Jerry Brown himself qualifies by his own admission for THREE separate public employee pensions.

    Thumb up 35 Thumb down 11

  55. Steveguy says:

    Blah, blah blah, post all you want. They will never give up their treasonous acts, as they profit from it.

    The Piper is on his way. We are already doomed, they are just hastening the time.

    What part of ” Unsustainable” do they not understand ? I mean that !! I really do !

    Oh my.

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  56. Union Guy says:

    I told you so!

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 6

  57. brown act jack says:

    Hey,don’t get mad at the workers, it is the fault of management and elected officials.

    If they are so stupid, or biased, or unknowing , that the contracts are bad for the County, it is not the workers.

    Well, perhaps not, as the worked in HR are workers that will receive a pension also and there is no benefit for them to be less than lenient in writing contracts.

    The Supes and CC are pushovers for workers in the higher levels.

    And it is all done in secret!

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  58. Sonoma Coma says:

    I miss the old way of reporting at the PD!

    If the PD keeps this type of reporting up, Sonoma County may no longer be a crony good old boy’s club that has worked so well in the past!

    Great job Brett!!!

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  59. brown act jack says:

    the very concept of basing your retirement benefits on your highest year in incomprehensible to me!

    You pay 8% for your retirement on each year of your employment, but you never pay the extra cost of the higher retirement in your earlier years.

    There is no way in hell that the retirement fund can continue on that path when they have to pay retirement on contributions that were too low to cover the final retirement payments.

    Just can not do that!

    Solution, your retirement is based solely on the fund deposited with the retirement fund by the worker and the employer. It is totaled up over the employment years and a retirement pension is figured to cover the
    remaining life expectency of the worker based upon the contributions to the fund!

    And the pension is based upon the returns on the funds of the retirement group!

    the retirement group, when the person retires, buys a life annuity with the funds from an insuance company, or the government, and the retiree receives the funds from the insurance company!

    Thumb up 39 Thumb down 11

  60. bill says:

    This absurd scenario will lead to the bankruptcy of the county and the continued reduction in services to the public from whom the tax dollars come from.

    This entire pension system needs to be dumped before it kills its maker.

    Public employees deserve no more than the public which receives Social Security.

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  61. Accountable says:

    The spiking is a huge problem. But so are the higher salaries and pension ratios for classifications across the board, from the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Department, and numerous classifications in the General employees.

    The fact that Sonoma County pays as much or more than Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) for numerous, comparable county jobs shows how poorly managed we are. Why do I keep referencing Santa Clara? It is the largest county in the Bay Area…almost 4 times the size of Sonoma. It has the 2nd highest cost of living in the Greater Bay Area…one of the highest in the nation. Santa Clara County has a significantly larger budget…$4.1 billion.

    For all those naysayers, compare Santa Clara’s salary schedule http://www.sccgov.org/sites/esa/Basic%20Salary%20Information/Documents/base_salary_plan.pdf to Sonoma County’s published salary schedule http://agency.governmentjobs.com/sonoma/default.cfm?action=agencyspecs. Start with Accountants, and you will see that we pay as much or more for comparable jobs.

    Compare Santa Clara’s Deputy Sheriff and Sheriff Sergeant salaries to Sonoma County’s http://hr.sonoma-county.org/documents/dsa_mou.pdf (appendix A). We pay significantly more in the Sheriff’s Department.

    Sonoma County pays a more generous pension ratio to General employees (3% at 60) versus Santa Clara County (2.5% at 55). This county cannot continue to fund these Santa Clara level salaries and better pensions without going bankrupt, which will impact every one of us. It is not personal, it is simple math!

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  62. Reality Check says:

    “I don’t begrudge anyone taking what they have coming to them. … If people find that objectionable, then maybe they need to change the rules.”

    Pathetic. Kerns was one of those who wrote the rules. These people have no moral fiber. The public’s reaction to this behavior has been consistent and nearly unanimous, it’s wrong. Yet “civic leaders” do it anyway. No moral fiber.

    Ending pension spiking is the low hanging fruit of reform. Still, after many years of abuse and public complaints, the BOS is just now talking about doing something.

    Yet we routinely reelect incumbents. Why?

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  63. Very Angry Taxpayer says:

    How appropriate! The former Treasurer of Sonoma County has a surname that is a perfect example of an aptronym – a name that fits some aspect of one’s character or vocation. Gives deeper meaning to the expression “on the Dole”.

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  64. GAJ says:

    The absolute gall of Kerns and people like him is simply stunning.

    It is obvious he voted “yes” on the new rules with the full intention of using them to raid public coffers and line his pockets…the taxpayer be damned.

    He should be jailed for stealing from the taxpayers.

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