Robert Fellner: Four Los Angeles retirees collected $1 million-plus pension payouts last year
Four Los Angeles police and fire retirees collected over $1 million apiece in pension payouts last year, according to just-released 2015 pension data from TransparentCalifornia.com.
Retired assistant fire chief Timothy Manning’s $1,181,309 pension and benefits package was the highest of any retiree surveyed — with $996,161 coming from the controversial deferred retirement option plan (DROP).
DROP allows an employee to draw a salary and pension simultaneously for up to 5 years, with each year’s pension being deposited into an interest-bearing account. Upon actual retirement, the accumulated balance can be withdrawn either as a lump-sum payment or rolled over into an annuity.
The next three highest-compensated Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension (LAFPP) retirees were:
Retired police commander Stephen Jacobs, who collected $1,115,747
Retired deputy police chief Mark Perez, who collected $1,105,441
Retired deputy police chief Terry Hara, who collected $1,043,667
Average full-career city workers are pension millionaires
Regular city employees belong to a separate retirement plan —the Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (LACERS) — which does not offer DROP and did not provide the cost of health benefits on an individual basis. The average full-career pension for all LACERS retirees was $63,025, which jumped to $75,624 when looking at only those who retired in the past year.
These individuals are “pension millionaires,” according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.
“Fidelity Investments currently charges over $1.75 million for an annuity large enough to provide the same level of retirement income at LACERS’ average retirement age of 60.”
The top three LACERS’ pension payouts went to:
Retired personnel department general manager Margaret Whelan, who collected $235,333
Retired harbor department general manager Bruce Seaton, who collected $234,420
Retired harbor department port pilot Michael Owens, who collected $232,413
Fellner noted that the number of Los Angeles retirees who received pension and benefits packages of at least $100,000 increased nearly 22 percent since 2013.
“As the number of $100,000-plus pension payouts soared, so has the cost to taxpayers, which just hit a record-high 46 percent of payroll for safety officers and 26 percent for regular city workers.
“Including the DWP pension plan, Los Angeles spent over $1.5 billion on pension and retiree health costs alone in 2014, which represented nearly 12 percent of total expenditures.
“Studies have shown that growing retirement costs result in reduced city services, higher taxes or both.”
Leroy Baca's $342,000 payout 3rd highest amongst County retirees
Transparent California also released 2015 pension data from the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association, which does not offer DROP, but still had dozens of annual payouts of more than $250,000.
The top three pension and benefits packages received by Los Angeles County retirees went to:
Retired Harbor General chief physician Charles Mehringer, who collected $419,666
Retired Harbor General chief physician Robert Morin, who collected $344,080
Retired sheriff Leroy Baca, who collected $342,849
The number of County retirees who collected at least $100,000 increased 19 percent since 2013.
Transparent California is still working on obtaining pension payout data from the DWP, where costs have risen to astronomical heights, Fellner said.
“The 53 percent of payroll required to fund the DWP’s pension plan is, by far, the most expensive non-safety pension plan I’ve ever seen.”
To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.
A full-career is defined as at least 25 years of service for police and fire retirees, and 30 years for regular retirees.