Ken Carlson

August 23, 2013

Should public service pensions be posted online?

CalPERS has delayed its promise to put the names and pensions of retired public employees online

County Pulse

County government and health issues in Central Valley

The California Public Employees' Retirement System backed off its promise last month to shed sunlight on the retirement pay for public service retirees by posting the names and pension amounts online.

Steven Greenhut wrote in City Journal that the giant pension system was pressured by the Retired Public Employees Association to reconsider. Leaders of the association argued that routinely posting the information would allow Wall Street critics to mislead people about the retirement benefits for government employees.

The RPEA maintains that, despite the claims of pension reformers, the average pension for public service retirees in California is $26,000 a year. 

Pension reformer Marcia Fritz of Sacramento countered that employee unions want to keep the public in the dark. "It was going to provide even more evidence that the benefits promised to public employees are very generous compared with what people get in the private sector," she said.  

When I started writing for this paper in 1999, people had no idea what local government employees were earning after retirement and not much was said about the future burden on taxpayers. Things changed with a 2007 California Supreme Court decision that reinforced the public's right to know what government employees are paid while they are working and after they retire.

CalPERS, the source of retirement and health benefits for 1.6 million public employees and retirees, releases the info on individual pensions upon request. The pensions for retired employees of Stanislaus County and a few other local agancies have been disclosed since a Superior Court decision in 2009 declared it's public information. That decision came after The Bee asked the court to order the Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association to release the records.

Fitz said she had expected CalPERS to put the retirement pay for individuals online so the public is aware. It's why she hasn't updated the CalPERS $100,000 Club on the Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility site for 18 months, she said.

Most everyone is waiting for possible legislation in Sacramento that could determine whether the pension records are put online.

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