Top two sheriff officials double and triple dipping

January 24, 2010

By KAREN VELIE

Though highly unusual, the methods San Luis Obispo County’s two top sheriff officials have adopted to double and even triple their incomes are entirely legal.

In an interesting twist, San Luis Obispo County Under Sheriff Steve Bolts is taking home between $640,000 and $772,000 this year in retirement benefits and an hourly salary, while his boss, Sheriff Pat Hedges, takes home $340,000, according to calculations based on dates provided by Bolts.

“I can see people saying this is double or triple dipping,” Bolts said. “But this is the pension plan and I am not hiding anything. All of that money is mine anyhow.”

The principal reason for Bolts’ hefty income is the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). Adopted by the board of supervisors in October 2006, DROP allows county employees to simultaneously collect both their full wages and benefits along with their full retirement for a period of no more than five years.

According to Tony Petruzzi, executive secretary of the San Luis Obispo County Pension Trust, actuaries looked into DROP and determined the program does not increase county pension costs. While an employee is in DROP, the county no longer pays into the employee’s pension account.

“DROP allows them (county employees) to build up a nest egg for their retirement,” Petruzzi said. “It’s their own money.”

The primary goal of the DROP program is to retain experienced employees even after they make their full contributions to their retirement programs. Currently, sheriff’s department personnel retire under a pension formula that allows members to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their salaries.

Opponents of DROP contend that allowing top tier employees, who have already reached their maximum pension contributions, to simultaneously receive retirement and wages results in increased costs to the taxpayers. In addition, opponents question the financial repercussions of allowing law enforcement employees to retire at 50 with 90 percent of their income.

“We are losing positions with the people that work the bottom end,” according to a sheriff’s department employee who asked to remain anonymous. “If Hedges did away with Bolts, his salary could save two to three positions.”

In San Diego, a community with a rising unfunded public pension liability, the sheriff deputies’ union recently agreed to increase their retirement age to 55. In addition, San Diego city officials are currently discussing DROP reform.

There are 24 SLO County employees currently in DROP.

DROP monies are stored in an investment account and paid in their entirety to employees when they retire. After three years in the program, Bolts retired on Jan. 1 and was immediately rehired as a temporary hourly employee.

In addition to collecting his DROP account monies and his retirement, Bolts is currently being paid between $70 and $82 an hour by the county.

According to the county’s temporary hire rules, Bolts can put in no more than 960 hours a fiscal year. However, because he was re-hired on Jan. 1, the next 12 months fall into two separate fiscal years. Bolts said he plans to get paid for 1,920 hours before he steps down from his second-in-command position at the end of 2010.

Bolts regularly works more than 50 hours a week in his under sheriff position, sources said.

In Jan. 2007, Hedges began to draw both his pension and his sheriff/coroner’s salary. Earlier this year, he announced he would not run for re-election in June.

Meanwhile, battered by a plunging financial market, SLO County is facing a $299 million deficit of unfunded pension liability. Public employee pension promises may be one of the most crippling fiscal disasters facing county taxpayers.

SLO County is one of two California counties with independent employee retirement systems. The trustees who administer the local system have no authority to negotiate for, or to advocate for or against, any benefit adjustment.

Only the SLO County Board of Supervisors has the power to determine whether future county employees will participate in a compensation package that is now far more generous than what most of their employers, the taxpayers of the county, receive.


40 Comments

  1. Truth Hurts says:

    Part of this article is misleading…it states..Currently, sheriff’s department personnel retire under a pension formula that allows members to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their salaries..this is TRUE..but it is a little different..you can retire at 50 wiith 3% for every year that you work up to 90%…start at 25 work to 50 =75% this sentence makes you think that they all get 90%..not the case…most cops get sent out early on medical for injuries…I think the life span for a white male law enforcement officer is around 60 years old…most die a lot earlier than other people…in addition..I know a lot of cops that have 30 years on..that long dealing with what they deal with takes a toll on a person and they need to leave!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  2. knowtheFACTS says:

    In 2009 124 law enforcement officers had died in the line of duty from all causes, a 7 percent reduction from the 133 fatalities in 2008, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). 48 officers were shot and killed in 2009, compared to 39 in 2008,12 were struck and killed by automobiles while outside of their own vehicles and four died in motorcycle crashes. I don’t agree with the amount of money the higher ups, but cut the guys that work the streets a break.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 41

    • shorty says:

      ——————–B.S.—————-B.S.—————-B.S.—————
      You notice that the TV shows on dangerous jobs do not include law enforcement??? IF jobs paid by danger law enforcement would be way down the list. Consider:
      “Of 39,000 fishing workers in the nation, 50 were killed, a rate of 128.9 per 100,000 full-time workers. Rough seas, unpredictable deadly weather and isolation during emergencies all make the job more unsafe than any other.”
      As an aside getting shot and going quickly is a lot less gruesome and painful than what happens to a fisherman. Try getting wrapped up in a winch or dragged overboard when a line loops around you, or freezing to death. I used to do this in New York and it made puke when the POA talked about police work being dangerous.
      ______________________________________________________
      Most dangerous jobs … Deaths per 100,000 (& do any make 6 figure salaries, let alone $772,000??- and btw a sheriff ain’t out on the beat:
      Timber cutters 117.8
      Fishers 71.1
      Pilots and navigators 69.8
      Structural metal workers 58.2
      Drivers-sales workers 37.9
      Roofers 37
      Electrical power installers 32.5
      Farm occupations 28
      Construction laborers 27.7
      Truck drivers 25

      Another top 10 list, and notice the salaries, mostly below 35k! :

      Fishers and related fishing workers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 118.4
      Average salary: $29,000 per year

      Logging workers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 92.9
      Average salary: $31,290 per year

      Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 66.9
      Average salary: $135,040

      Structural iron and steel workers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 55.6
      Average salary: $43,540

      Refuse and recyclable material collectors
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 43.8
      Average salary: $30,160

      Farmers and ranchers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 41.1
      Average salary: $39,720

      Electrical power-line installers and repairers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 32.7
      Average salary: $49,200

      Truck drivers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 29.1
      Average salary: $35,460 (for heavy or tractor-trailer drivers)

      Miscellaneous agricultural workers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 23.2
      Average salary: $24,140

      Construction laborers
      Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 22.7
      Average salary: $29,050

      ______________________________________________
      For some reason the actual #1 dangerous job is off the radar:
      ___________
      According to a story in this week’s RCR Wireless News (updated with live link), building and climbing towers (which can be hundreds of feet tall) is more dangerous than ranching, fishing, logging, and even ironworking. The fatality rate is currently>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 183.6 deaths per 100,000<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< workers: Five tower workers died during one 12-day span earlier this year alone. 18 tower workers died on the job in 2006.
      ___________________

      You know by most definitions taking money without peoples consent is ROBBERY. And that's just what's government workers are doing… it's only been public info since the newpapers sued a couple of years ago. Now see , now we're disgusted.

      DUMP ALL IMCUMBENTS.

      /dixi – shorty

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 3

      • shorty says:

        Tell your neighbors, co-workers, and friends about this . . .

        And nail your local city, county, and state reps on this. TODAY.

        Esp. your Sacto guys that refuse to cut the state stuff, even the worst: The corrections dept(TEXAS has same number of inmates . . . costs 1/3 what CA. does), and CARB, Ca. Air Resources Board. Fire CARB chairman Mary -the merciless- Nichols and Hien Tran CARB lead statisician that lied on his resume. Then got a mail order degree. So he doesn’t get fired???
        Tell your reps to bring home the bacon- save the schools, transit districts, HOMELESS shelters, FOOD BANKS, and local govt. I am so sick of hearing about 6 fig salaries but no resources for the unemployed or otherwise unfortunate.

        dixi ……… shorty

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

      • cheseburger says:

        shorty that’s a pretty tall building they get blown off of, and about the best post on this article, I’d give you some thumbs up but, somebody took away my right to vote, so I’m going to write you my own compliment, well done informative and I wouldn’t even question the validity!
        Nice work, excellent job!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

        • Moderator says:

          Cheseburger: somebody took away my right to vote Check your browser settings and preferences, clear your cache, no one here at CCN has taken anything
          away from you . Further comments lamenting your lack of thumb powers will be cheerfully considered for deletion.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

      • mkaney says:

        Shorty you beat me to the punch, thank you for posting those statistics. Statistics are constantly misused by government employees to justify their actions and salaries, but statistics mean NOTHING unless they are compared to other statistics. I would also like to point out that the 38 officers shot in 2008 represents one of the lowest number of police shootings in recent years, so to use that number to show an increase in 2009 is TOTALLY misleading.

        I also noticed that some cop or government employee came along and marked some of these messages down. I would suggest that instead of attacking the people who pay their salary, they may find their careers are better served by becoming defenders of truth and friends of the public, because the tide is beginning to turn against those who don’t.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

    • Truth Hurts says:

      why is this getting a thumbs down…I say all the cops take a week off and we will see what happens…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

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