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.


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Use_it_or_Lose_it

I have to agree with Beentheredonethat about the Board.


Lenthall was on the Board of Supervisors when this deal was made. There was no loophole, it was clear as a bell that double dipping was an option. Those of you with Lenthall stickers on your cars apparently want more robbing by law enforcement. There must be something in it for you.


wondering

The objection to “double dippling” seems to be nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to someone else getting more than we do. Where is the harm to the tax payer? If the Sheriff/Undersheriff retired outright – the cost to the retirement system is the same. The County, however, would have to hire people to replace them – those new employees would be paid the same salaries (no savings there) PLUS benefits, which would increase taxpayer costs. It’s not like not having a Sheriff or Undersheriff is a realistic option. No one’s paying for additional positions, and the County is actually saving on benefits costs. It just SOUNDS horrible that one person would make that much money………and we all wish it was us…………….


BeenThereDoneThat

You’re kidding right? Yanking peoples chains? It can’t be any simpler my friend. No jealousy here. It’s called REALITY. It is pretty simple. If somebody retires (most likely Gov. worker) with a 75%-100% pension that is the amount of the original pay. Now say they retire at 40-50 years old (which does happen, look it up). O.k. and with a lot of people living to around 80+ these days, that is a potential of 40 years of retirement you are paying.


In the mean time there is another cow at the trough sucking up to get their 20 years service for a 40 year payback. If we could keep the first guy working till he was, oh maybe 55-60 now you cut that retirement down to 20-25 years. The other guy works longer and you don’t have to rehire so soon. NOBODY gets screwed. The pensioner still is making a salary till 55+ and still getting his pension later. He JUST ISN’T LIVING ON IT FOR 40 YEARS!! That is what is obscene. I am not advocating taking their retirement or pay. Just cut the retirement years down where you get NOTHING back in return of pay. Simple economics that this will not work long haul. This is what is starting to break, Local, County, State and Federal Government. If you think not, you are living in a fools paradise.


BeenThereDoneThat

Oh on my comment you are paying, the you is YOU THE TAXPAYER! A Goverment job makes NOTHING. Only private sector jobs make goods. A Goverment job just provides a service.


wondering

My previous comment was in regard to the concept of “double dipping” not to the level of retirement benefits themselves. I agree that no one should be able to retire at 40 (if there is such a plan) and the current system of retirement certainly has room for change. Possibly the past practice of providing a defined benefit plan is not something that’s sustainable into the future – and instead should be a defined contribution plan. However, I still say that the immediate negative reaction to double dipping is emotional rather than rational (of course it sounds obscene for someone to earn $700k/year) – but is not a negative in all cases.


Been There: Would you explain one of your comments for me: “just cut the retirement years down where you get NOTHING back in return of pay.” I’m not sure what you mean? I am assuming you want higher retirement ages, but…………?


BeenThereDoneThat

Wondering. I like this. Engaging in a good conversation.


What I mean by nothing back in return is this. When said employ is working, you are paying him and getting a service from him back in return. When they retire you have now replaced them and you are paying a new employee, while said employee has retired.


That is way I advocated delaying retirement before eligable for pension. If you have said employee work even ten more years that is ten more years before you hire the next guy. Over a period of time this will equal a savings. If you can save ten years on one employee, ten on another, ten on yet another, that is thirty years worth of getting something back before you have to hire another employee.


Most business look at employess as a whole not as each individual. You don’t look at a typical day and say I paid five employees to work eight hours. You look at it as you paid five employees to work 40 man hours. 5 employes x 8 hours=40 man hours.


And lets not forget each employee that the Gov. can forestall is less in benefits package of medical, vacation, etc. that you have to pay. It is cheaper paying three benefit packages than say six.


Cindy

What sounds horrible isn’t that they would “take so much”, it’s that we paid them so much to begin with. Since when does local gov get paid far more than the average medium pay of it’s citizenry?


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mkaney

The cops and sheriffs in this area are CROOKS, plain and simple. We need to put a stop to this IMMEDIATELY. These officers do not have a uniquely dangerous job, and they do more to destroy lives than the crimes they claim to enforce. Again, I suggest we fire the entire force and rehire any who are willing to work without the union.


Rewind

What an idiotic statement. Sounds like your jealous you don’t get paid that much.


cheseburger

Rewind I don’t think he’s jealous but lord knows I am, almost 800 grand, for a position of safety behind a desk, how much do we pay our boys in combat who get shot every day, or come back without a leg, arm, ability to go to the bathroom, well is it fare? HELL NO IT’S NOT FARE


Paso_Guy

Spoken like a true ex-felon.


mkaney

Spoken like two tax-sucking police officers. Nonetheless I will gladly entertain all challenges. I am not an ex-felon, nor am I planning on being one. I certainly don’t get paid that much, but it’s not jealousy you’re detecting, because you forget, Rewind, WHERE the money from those salaries comes from. If those salaries were made as a result of VOLUNTARY decisions on behalf of customers, then I suppose I would covet such pay and feel a bit of envy, or perhaps admiration.


However, that money comes from TAKING money from myself and other citizens. I have not voluntarily signed on to this transaction. When they can earn the same salaries as a result of the same voluntary market the rest of us work within, then MORE power to them!


I think this is a perfect opportunity to note the kind of people we deal with in law enforcement. In your teeny tiny little world-view, anyone who doesn’t agree with you and has another opinion isn’t worthy of ANY respect. An intelligent person might ask, “why do you feel that way?” You have been trained, however, to see the world from two perspectives, yours, and wrong. Anyone who doesnt kneel before your authority and revere your “sacrifice” MUST be a felon. That appears to be the only possible explanation you can conceive of. The really interesting thing is the lack of originality in your response. Go to any article about law-enforcement, in any paper, anywhere in America, and look for a dissenting comment and you will find a response nearly identical to yours (referring to Paso_Guy, specifically).


It indicates a level of independent thought barely exceeding that of your K-9 partners.


By the way, in the real world most of us have to deal with customers in a more respectful manner, and we appreciate their business, whether we agree with them or not. Many, thought certainly not all LEOs today, are rude single-minded thugs. On the other hand, I do wish to express my appreciation for those officers who have humility, respect, understanding, and believe in true public service even if they weren’t getting paid what they should.


cheseburger

I’m with you my friend you are wise to some, but a few have not gone bad, let them lead the others without a union, to hell with all the unions, they took my pension for dues, when they didn’t give me enough work to pay up. We still have a few good men, just way to many bad ones at the top.


youdontknowme

For all fellow tax payers: This is how one town did it, but it is only a start. Soon all city and town need to follow or else they too will be bankrupted just like Orange County and City of Vallejo before them.


“This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.


More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.


The parks department removed trashcans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter. Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that. Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.


City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding


to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won’t pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.”


Booty JuJu

Unions are a cancer slowly killing the host, a fact known and openly acknowledged by all save those who financially benefit from the disease. Yet nothing will change until the host is bled, the meat is picked from the bones, and the bones are sucked dry as dust, which is still years down the road. There is zero chance of reversing this downward death spiral. Zero. The public officials responsible for negotiating union contracts rely on union support for their jobs, at the very least depending on the unions to not mobilize against them. Quid pro quo. Same as it ever was. The only difference is that the level of corruption, greed, self-dealing, and dysfunction has reached such unprecedented levels that reality can no longer be denied by even the most willfully blind. Yet the unions couldn’t care less, as their sole and only function is to do precisely what they are doing. They are functioning perfectly.


The fact that half of us feed from their hand while the other half is fully expected to kiss the hand of power is just tough titty, exactly what we deserve. When your government has no fear of you, this is what you get. And much worse, which is yet to come.


The road ahead is clearly visible by simply looking at the American automotive industry (Government Motors). A perfect example of a perfectly functioning, union-dominated environment. How’s Detroit doing these days?


If you don’t want to believe that private union-dominated industry could possibly represent our public future, that’s ok then. Simply take a look at Britain, a country which is just a few steps further down the exact same path we are skipping along. You will not like what you see.


Reality is bad, and getting worse. There now only two US working classes: Those who have government jobs / pensions and those who don’t. Those who don’t have government jobs will be bled dry to feed the government employees and their bloated, obscene pensions.


Here are 62 pages of retired CA teachers receiving $100k or more in pension bennies:


http://tinyurl.com/o7chpn


Posting a list of prison employees and other public trough feeders in the same pension stratosphere would require a prescription for anti-nausea medication. You have no idea how broken the system has become.


Bluebird

Unions don’t represent top administrators in agencies. They do their own lobbying and deal making as Hedges did in this situation.


heron

This is most likely a list of former superintendents and school administrators not teachers. Most teachers are lucky to get half that amount after 30 years of service.


Saveslocounty

Yet another example of the Sheriff and Undersheriff continuing with their lack of ethical behavior. The intent of the Board of Supervisor was to save money by reducing the county portion of the retirement contribution for a limited time. Then these two crooks, find a loophole and exploit the taxpayers boasting that “all of the money is mine anyhow.” This is a slap in the face to the county, the taxpayers and to the deputies patroling the streets which the Board of Supervisors needs to get off their duffs and fix. All they have to do is by policy eliminate the extra hire program or delete the staff allocation of the undersheriff position. That makes the undersheriff go away an stops the bleeding. Of course, they would file a law suit, but by the time there is any resolution, we will have a new Sheriff elected ending this reign of terror. We can only pray that the successful candidate will have the best interest of the community in their heart and not hell bent on lining their own pockets.


standup

When will we Californians realize that we can no longer fund the unions. Supply and demand should rule the job market. Right now the unions are basically crippling our society. On another note, it will be a refreshing change once the wife abuser is out of his post. He has been a worthless sheriff to date. Total waste of our tax dollars.


Dexter

Yes it does appear that the Sheriff is making somenice change … the least he could do is show up for work once in awhile. Maybe hes burning up some of his accrued Vacation time?


BeenThereDoneThat

While I have to agree that what Bolts is doing is legal, he is still RAPEING the system. I blame the BOS for letting this kind of cr*p happen.


Also local and state Gov. need to address this continuing on going problem. The people (in these postions) and the unions attitude that they are beholdened to this is absolute and udder BULLS*HIT.

These salaries are OBSCENE. WE THE PEOPLE ARE BEING ROBBED. We need to pressure any and all Gov. to STOP these practices (retirement at 50 etc) NOW!!!!