SLO County’s six-figure pension club

December 3, 2014
Warren Baker

Warren Baker

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The number of retired public employees in San Luis Obispo County who are receiving yearly pensions of more than $100,000 continues to grow along with the more $500 million in unfunded pension liability.

The highest earning pensioner in the county is former Cal Poly president Warren Baker, who received a $250,687 pension in 2013. Baker’s pension is the 20-highest in all of CalPERS, the state’s primary pension system, according to the California Policy Center database.

Cal Poly, as a whole, had 26 retirees with pensions greater than $100,000 in 2013.

San Luis Obispo County had 53 six-figure pensioners in 2013. Of that group, 10 receive annual retirement pay in excess of $150,000 a year.

Former county treasurer-tax collector, Frank Freitas, who retired in the middle of his term in 2012, currently has the highest pension among all retirees in the county’s independent retirement system. Freitas received $192,649 in 2013.

Freitas is trailed in the county pension system by former sheriff Pat Hedges and retired county administrator Jim Grant. Hedges collected a $189,751 pension in 2013, while Grant received $176,459.

The city of San Luis Obispo leads the seven cities in the county in $100,000 pensioners. Last year, 24 San Luis Obispo retirees received six-figure pensions.

Former city manager Ken Hampian collected a city-high pension of $162,873, followed by retired finance director Bill Statler, who received $150,234. An additional 14 city retirees received pensions between $90,000 and $100,000 in 2013.

As with retirees from other public agencies, San Luis Obispo pensioners receive annual cost of living adjustments. The city’s six-figure pension club is currently growing on a yearly basis.

The other six cities in San Luis Obispo County have considerably fewer retirees with pensions greater than $100,000. Paso Robles has three members of the six-figure pension club, Arroyo Grande and Morro Bay each have two, and Atascadero and Pismo Beach both have one.

Paso Robles’s highest pensioner is former police chief Dennis Cassidy, who received $135,219 in 2013. Former fire chief Michael Hubert leads Arroyo Grande pensioners, having received $134,601 in retirement pay last year.

Morro Bay’s former police chief John De Rohan collected $135,275 in 2013, while Atascadero’s retired top cop received $116,896. Pismo Beach’s highest pensioner, former police chief Joe Cortez, earned $114,069 in retirement pay.
Grover Beach is the only city in the county without a $100,000 pensioner.

Most community services districts in the county have no pensioners near the $100,000 mark. Cambria Community Services District, however, has three members in the six-figure pension club, and a fourth retiree will likely join the group this year.

Former Cambria general manager Vernon Hamilton led Cambria pensioners with $116,029 in retirement pay last year.

A second state agency has some of San Luis Obispo County’s highest earning retirees. In 2013, 15 retirees from Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) received pensions greater than $100,000.

One retired staff psychiatrist, Roger Wunderlich, received $199,669 in retirement pay last year. Four other retirees from ASH also received pensions greater than $150,000 last year. Those four also worked as psychiatrists at the state hospital.

Funding employees’ retirements has become increasingly problematic for many public agencies statewide, including some in the county.

The San Luis Obispo County’s pension system has amassed $346 million in unfunded liabilities, an issue recently reported on by the San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury. Unfunded liabilities in the county’s plan increased by $25.2 million in 2012 alone, and the 2014 grand jury report states concern that they will grow substantially over the next decade.

The grand jury also criticized the county for lack of transparency in its reporting on pension debt. County taxpayers pay about $8.7 million annually to service the retirement plan debt, according to a 2013 report compiled by the actuarial firm Gabriel, Roeder Smith, and Company.

As with the county, the city of San Luis Obispo has suffered a rapid increase in its unfunded liabilities. San Luis Obispo has more than $115 million in unfunded pension liabilities, despite not having any in 2001.

In fiscal year 2001-2002, the city had more investment money in its CalPERS plan than obligations to current and future retirees. The city, then, was making no payments to CalPERS.

But, by 2010-2011, San Luis Obispo accumulated more than $100 million in unfunded liabilities, and its minimum annual CalPERS payment increased to approximately $8 million. By 2020-2021, the city is expected to owe CalPERS more than $14 million annually.

The San Luis Obispo City Council is expected to continue discussions on paying down it pension debt at a meeting in December, a recent city memorandum indicated.


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37 Comments

  1. womanwhohasbeenthere says:

    The SLO Property & Business Owners Association late last year had a speaker from CalPERS who went through the pension mess. SLO City owes $135 MILLION and the other cities are in similarly bad shape. The public pensions are shameful! NO ONE I the private sector enjoys job security and a fixed benefit. At some point taxpayers must say, Enough is enough!

    Trust me, there would be a line around the block for any public job if the pensions and benefits were even half what they are now.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  2. marcusaurelius says:

    the pension system is a ponzi scheme that is mathematically unsustainable. The fractional reserve system of printing endless currency makes our economy the biggest ponzi scheme in the world.

    (18) 18 Total Votes - 18 up - 0 down
    • saveslo says:

      .. and they all get together at the Bohemian Grove and laugh about it.. Haha!

      It’s funny, whenever the hegemony of the dollar backed by nothing but a big military, and the fact that it is the petrodollar gets challenged by another said nation: IE Libya talking about the Gold-Dinar and oil sold in that.. Iraq talking to the EU about switching to the Euro, Syria’s Assad not being a western puppet and getting invaded to “stop ISIS”.. It’s kind of a joke.

      Off-topic, but important: Curious if you’ve seen this expose on the Clinton Murders? Makes you understand why things are so screwed up- this is just the people Clinton had killed, and his wife now has a chance to be president? Yikes:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxmK3-r54yQ

      You have GOT to see that documentary.. It is the best expose I have personally seen in my life, and I’ve sen a lot of good documentaries. Politics at the top levels is extremely corrupted, and keeping your minions happy keeps mouths shut.. unless other methods need to be used.. ahem.. Clinton Style.

      (-3) 3 Total Votes - 0 up - 3 down
  3. wineguyjc says:

    A $250000 pension from a job that only requires 40 hours a week. These people are simply crooks. They work the system, work very little, cut sly deals with their friends using public funds as if the funds were their owns. Time to wake up people. SLO County government is known to be the most corrupt in the State.

    (22) 22 Total Votes - 22 up - 0 down
  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    For a long time the term, pension, has been a smoke screen for many retired Gov employees. The best term for them should be “lifetime salary”. For those of us in the private sector, a pension is now called a 401K. In cases where a company provides a pension, this annuity is a token amout for sustaining a reduced life style.

    Taxpayers can not afford funding greater than 60 percent of a salary and call it a pension.

    (25) 39 Total Votes - 32 up - 7 down
  5. NorCoMod says:

    You gotta love the picture of Warren. He looks so…….well……relaxed.

    (16) 20 Total Votes - 18 up - 2 down
    • saveslo says:

      They say happiness increases up to 75K year, then plateus..

      But they never talked about how happy you get if you have a pension that is huge and don’t have to work anymore.

      Baker is “blowing your load” level of satisfied look with that sized pension.

      I’m sure he’ll donate a lot of money back to Cal Poly ;)

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  6. SLOBIRD says:

    And most of these retirees, John Dunn, Ken Hampien, Bill Statler, etc. also receive free medical insurance and through the California League of Cities fill in at interim positions throughout the State at great temporary pay/benefits. I guess for some folk enough is never enough as they sit on their thrones at the cost of the taxpayers screwing us anyway they can to pay more taxes which at the end of the road benefits the top 1% of government.

    Strange, they make policies (SLO, Ken Hampien and Bill Statler were behind the change of retirement benefit changes at the City and then they retire and benefit the most) that benefit them the most (matching city deferred comp, car allowances, retirement insurance for management, etc. Must be nice to be so important and greedy!

    (18) 28 Total Votes - 23 up - 5 down
  7. Otis says:

    The CalCoastNews disclosure of the PERS retirement system is staggering. Where those in nongovernmental industry suffers the risks on change and unemployment, the fat cats in government succeed in the comfort of a secure blanket that their pensions are guaranteed by the tax payer.

    The excess of the PERS retirement system suggests a depravity unique in economic history. It is a system fabricated, implemented and cajoled by the incestuous designs of labor union with elected representatives.

    It is a partnership that bests any Ponzi scheme, being wrapped in law, an administrative rationale of legality. It is an incestuous self feeding administration of bureaucrats benefiting bureaucrats.

    The PERS system undermines every concept of economic fairness as it emulates the rewards of executives in industry who are rewarded for their performance in not only administrating their businesses, but also in generating the commercial income and, therefore, the base for personal and business taxes upon which governments and the retirement system such as PERS system survives.

    The PERS system is only dependent on the tax collector and those in industry that feed it without the risk of failure always evident in industry. Farmers tending their fields with illegal’s balance their duty to profit on their crops. People in business wonder why the best jobs are now in government. School children and young adults in College lust for government jobs that offer a secure life with the comfort knowledge all they have to do is stay in line, letting the numbers of eventual retirement be their reward, typically in only twenty years, with the prospect of hitting the major jackpot the PERS system provides.

    What we see here with the PERS system is a crumbling foundation that promises economic failure, because the numbers do not add up as one municipal government entity after another faces the hard reality of budgeting a system destined to fail.

    The total system of retirements for Federal, State, Counties and municipalities is corrupt. The tax payer is getting screwed and failure is imminent.

    (38) 88 Total Votes - 63 up - 25 down

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