CHP chief was making nearly $500,000 before retiring
December 26, 2012
California Highway Patrol division chief Jeff Talbott retired last year making $483,581 in salary and benefits. [Bloomberg]
Talbott, 53, retired as the highest paid officer in the 12 most-populous U.S. states, according to a Bloomberg investigation. Upon retirement, he began collecting an annual pension of $174,888 and took a job running the public safety department at the University of Redlands in Southern California. Talbott also received $280,259 from the state for accrued leave and vacation time.
Many California law enforcement officers, like Talbott, retire early and can even double their annual earnings due to union negotiated benefits, overtime and a lack of enforcement of limits on accumulating unused vacation time.
One state employee collected a $609,000 check last year at retirement for accrued leave. California’s liability for state workers’ unused leave has more than doubled since 2003, rising from $1.4 billion to $3.9 billion in 20011.
More than 5,000 California troopers made at least $100,000 in 2011, more than in any of the 12 states surveyed by Bloomberg. Forty-four made more than $200,000.
In North Carolina, only three troopers earned more than $100,000. And, Talbott received almost four times more in total pay than top paid officer in North Carolina, who received $122,950 in 2011.
Starting pay for CHP officers is $67,764 a year, with a 5 percent annual increase until reaching $84,036. North Carolina troopers’ starting salary is about $34,000.
California secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Agency Marty Morgenstern said the state has inappropriately compensated many of its employees.
“I think some of our rules were negligent, and I think people were allowed to build up overtime pay who shouldn’t have been, who accumulated leave time and furlough time,” Morgenstern said.
During the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the CHP union, The California Association of Highway Patrolmen, won large concessions from the state.
In 2006, California began granting highway patrol officers a stipend equal to 3.5 percent of base pay for time spent on activities before and after shifts, such as putting on protective gear and inspecting weapons and vehicles. The same year, the state also doubled the extra pay for officers working swing and night shifts.
As benefits increased, so did CHP salaries. CHP officer salaries rose 2.7 percent in fiscal year 2004, 12.1 percent in fiscal 2005 and 5.6 percent and 5.7 percent in the following years, according to the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Prior to Schwarzenegger’s term, Governor Gray Davis granted the CHP union a pension package in 1999 that allowed officers 90 percent of their salaries after 30 years of service.
CHP Officers hired before September 1, 2010 each receive 3 percent per year of service at age 50. Those hired after September 1, 2010 receive 3 percent at 55.
Due to pension changes during Brown’s current term, new employees of the CHP will receive 2 percent at 50 or 2.7 percent at 57.
In North Carolina, where pension costs are much lower, state troopers receive 1.82 percent per year of service after 30 years of work.