Former Grover Beach police chief double dipping again
February 5, 2016
By KAREN VELIE
Grover Beach Police Chief Jim Copsey is slated to again receive a salary and pension simultaneously while he works as interim city manager following City Manager Robert Perrault’s retirement on Feb. 16. The city council is expected to approve Copsey’s interim city manager contract at a Feb. 15 council meeting.
Copsey will receive an hourly wage will be in line with what the city paid Perrault, City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz said. In 2014, Perrault received a salary of $141,997 and $172,522 in total compensation.
On Dec. 28, 2014, Copsey retired from his job as police chief which made him eligible for his California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) pension. The next day, he began working as Grover Beach’s interim chief at a monthly salary of $11,071.
California law allows Copsey to serve as interim chief or city manager while collecting a pension for a total of 960 hours per year. Shortly before Copsey reached the maximum number of hours permitted as interim chief in 2015, the council unanimously approved 10-year-veteran of the department John Peters as the new chief.
The practice of collecting a pension while working for the government agency from which an employee retired has become commonly known in California as double-dipping. Several local public officials have done so in recent years, including former San Luis Obispo County undersheriff Steve Bolts, who received between $640,000 and $772,000 in combined salary and retirement pay in 2010.
Before he retired the first time, Copsey also increased his pension by becoming Grover Beach’s assistant city manager, in addition to the city’s police chief. The additional position pays $13,230 a year, which increased Copsey’s base salary to $144,192.
The practice of promoting a public employee or granting a sizable pay increase shortly before retirement is commonly known as pension spiking.
In 2014, California Controller John Chiang released an audit of 11 state and local government agencies where pension spiking was occurring. The audit indicated that taxpayers and local government are on the hook to pay nearly $800 million from legal pension spiking over the next two decades.