Saturday, April 30, 2016

Is Sierra Madre City Hall Censoring Its Facebook Page?

Doyle & Capoccia: UUT first, Monastery next?
It now appears that City Hall has instituted a new policy for its celebrated City of Sierra Madre Facebook page. Rather than running a taxpayer funded public forum that accommodates the opinions of all residents, they now seem to only want to hear from those who cling tightly to current official city policies. To the point where the city is now removing comments that it feels are antithetical to their agendas. There is a very good example of this available, and we are more than happy to share that with you today.

The following series of City of Sierra Madre's Facebook screenshots shows how these comments first appeared. This is what was originally attached to Chief Giannone's announcement regarding those new SMPD uniform embellishments we posted about on this blog yesterday. You can link to that by clicking here.

The next screenshot shows how these comments appear now. Jennifer Kloss's remark questioning SMPD expenditures for those new SMPD badges and patches has now been completely scrubbed from the site. George Orwell style, and with no explanation.

A very disturbing development. Apparently City Hall hopes to consign those residents who do not agree with their opinions to a kind of second class status. With only those closely adhering to the policies of the dominant big spending political faction in town being allowed complete access to the city's taxpayer funded Facebook page.

It is always alarming when you witness government trying to silence those who dare speak out against what it is they want. Which, in this case, has everything to do with money. The city is funding fat personal pensions on the public tax dime, and do not want to hear from anyone who might challenge that special one-sided relationship.

Things are getting ugly downtown.

More on the Dedicato Treatment Center controversy
Often some of the best parts of this blog are the comments. Wednesday's post attracted a huge amount of reader commentary. Here are three that caught my eye.

Happy Birthday MaryJane!
One of this blog's most valued readers just turned 102. MaryJane, we are honored that you have chosen to be a part of all this, and you are thought of here often. Thank you.

Happy Birthday!

Friday, April 29, 2016

It Is Just Like Old Times Down At Sierra Madre City Hall

"Those patches are silver and black. Like the Raiders."  
- Reader comment and an unfortunate correlation. 

Happy days are here again. With the 10% UUT back in place thanks to some of the most easily manipulated voters to be found anywhere, all of the usual suspects downtown are back to their devil may care ways. In this case the Sierra Madre Police Department. And who could possibly blame them? Ever since half of that department deserted the community they were sworn to protect for the few extra bucks to be found elsewhere, things have been kind of down at the mouth for the old SMPD. So what better way to cheer the remaining boys and girls in blue up than by getting them some nice new patches and badges?

Here is an exchange that took place recently on the City of Sierra Madre's Facebook page (link). Chief Giannone is announcing a cop couture make-over for the SMPD, and then there is that one commenter who just didn't dig it.

Good times. "Recrutiment" and all.

So that building pictured on that new SMPD patch, is it perhaps the Kensington? I am not sure I would recognize that structure otherwise. And the pile on that new badge? Is it an historic community landmark I somehow missed during the 15 years I lived there? Maybe it was something from the never constructed DSP? I cannot recall ever seeing anything quite like that in town. Maybe it's from Arcadia.

The other day an article announcing the latest Sierra Madre City Council line-up appeared in the Pasadena Star News (link). Here a newly minted Mayor Gene Goss shines counterintuitively about something we talked about frequently on The Tattler previous to April 12th:

“We’ve turned the corner on (the city’s yellow water problem),” he said. “With the passage of Measure UUT (this recent April election), our budget will now be stabilized without having to dip into our reserves. We’re not out of the woods yet, but that’s a good first step.”

Another city issue Goss said that will benefit from the passage of the Utility User’s Tax measure is the city’s 100-year-old police department.

“With the passage, we will be able to rebuild and keep our police department in good standing,” said Goss. “In the coming year, the council will build on these successes.”

So you see? Measure UUT was never about water infrastructure repairs or fixing sidewalks or any stuff like that. It was always about trying to accommodate Sierra Madre's many millions of dollars in unmet CalPERS debt, employee benefits and raises. As exemplified by the resurrection of this community's extremely expensive boutique police department.

All of that other stuff was pushed off until the 2018 election when either a new parcel tax, or increased property taxes (or most likely both), will be placed on the ballot. I am sure this will be publicized with yet another $30,000 Pasadena postcard campaign proclaiming it all essential to saving Sierra Madre.

Just like Measure UUT was. Only it later turned out to be something else.

Enjoy your new badges and patches.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dedicato Treatment Center: Mayor Pro Tem Arizmendi & Planning Commissioner Goldstein Have A New Neighbor

A different kind of money pit.
I don't know how this happens. Something controversial moves into a Sierra Madre neighborhood and there is complete silence from City Hall. Not a peep is emitted from the cake and cookies capital of this community. Rather the duty of announcing such a thing falls upon The Tattler instead. Which is fine, I don't have any problems with that. You would just think that these fine municipal employees (who unlike me are actually paid to do the job) would prefer to lead with such stories rather than having to react all of the time. Their suspected lack of transparency often looks more like complicity than ignorance, with the former always appearing worse than the latter.

Anyway, a new tenant has moved into the home located at 22 W. Carter. Called the Dedicato Treatment Center, it is a drug abuse rehabilitation outfit for extremely well-heeled addicts and recovering junkies. Dedicato TC rents this wickiup from its owners for $5,000 a month, with its clients rumored to be paying upwards of $30,000 a month to abide at this idyllic Sierra Madre locale and take the cure.

By all appearances a seriously profitable business, and a platinum detox for sure. You couldn't purge in finer surroundings. But is West Carter really an appropriate setting for this kind of an enterprise? Is John Keyes and his DTs really the sort of thing you'd pay a million or two dollars to have as your neighbor? Would you ever feel comfortable asking them to lend you the Grey Poupon?

The Dedicato Treatment Center has a website, of course. They've done this to let potential clients know what it is they have to offer. That is pretty much how the folks who filled me in about this found out about the place. Here is a link, and this is what they have to say for themselves.

An estimable substance abuse treatment facility I am sure, but at those prices I don't suspect they will be passing out their business cards at The Buccaneer. But fear not, you can get a free insurance verification.

The founder is some dude who calls himself Dr. Keith. Doctors who call themselves by their first names have always been worrisome for me, but then again I came of age sometime in the 1970s, a decade often celebrated for its firm dedication to substance abuse. Maybe things have changed.

Here's a short video where Dr. Keith promotes the benefits of fighting your next battles with drug addiction on West Carter.

To view this video click here.

The Chicago School degree hanging on Dr. Keith's wall should not be confused with the University of Chicago where Professor Peter Dreier learned his trade. Rather it is a kind of University of Phoenix for those interested in the exciting field of psychology. Which is a little like psychiatry, but you don't get to prescribe the kinds of drugs that could cause you to require the services of the Dedicato Treatment Center.

If you are interested you can read all about The Chicago School by clicking here. Operators are standing by to take your calls. Please have your credit card ready.

As is often the case, someone commenting on this site yesterday had some invaluable insight into what could be going down at the DTC. Here is that reader comment.

22 W Carter Ave, new McMansion. Kind of a junky pile, website says they're just starting up. These "group homes" are allowed into communities "by right" via LA County regulations (no CUP or Variance required for 6 occupants or less). The deal is good cash flow to the actual owner of the residential property, it's a business model. Take the right insurance plans, and you're in business, good as gold. Owner/investor makes out like a bandit, too. This relieves the County from having to provide facilities or services, it's all the Public/Private Partnership (PPP). Altadena (LA Co census place, not a city) got overrun with these things and that community went up in arms over it. Now they're proliferating in many communities, San Marino has several of them.

Another commenter added this:

Looking at the photos of the residential treatment center at 22 W. Carter, they show beds that would house several more than 6 people, SO a conditional use permit will be required. And a city business license?

So did the Dedicato Treatment Center apply for a business license at City Hall? Or have they had any meaningful contact at all with Sierra Madre's hard working public servants?

If so, shouldn't the city have at the very least let the people living on West Carter know what is coming to their neighborhood?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Tattler Milestone Of Sorts

What we have been calling The Sierra Madre Tattler blog since late 2008 crossed the 4 million page views (AKA "hits") mark yesterday, which is a significantly large number for a local muckraking news site that mainly covers just a few relatively small San Gabriel Valley communities. I thought I'd celebrate this milestone of sorts by taking the night off and writing about nothing much else besides that number. And I almost did.

Well OK, so there is also this:
Some interesting sports stats from the Los Angeles Times (link).

And then there is the obligatory Prince item:

There is this, too (link):

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Preserve Sierra Madre: Major Battle in Glendora

(Mod: Some key information that was sent out yesterday by Preserve Sierra Madre.)  

​Dear Supporters: While our normal focus is on events in Sierra Madre, yesterday's Pasadena Star News had a front page article titled "Wild Dispute" by Courtney Tompkins regarding an attempt by developer Derek Ng to build 19 two-story luxury homes right on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The location is a 41-acre expanse of wilderness known as the "Gordon-Mull" property.

(Mod: The rest of this extensive Star News piece can be accessed here.)

Sierra Madre is not an island unto itself.  What happens in Glendora affects the entire southern portion of the San Gabriel Mountains and all the foothill communities. The developer is facing a number of very determined preservation groups who don't want to see that pristine land turned into another big housing project. Mr. Ng is quoted as saying, "we are businessmen."  Well, for a lot of people, preserving our foothills for future generations is more than just about "business".

Thank you for your continued support.

Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

Monday, April 25, 2016

Most People In Sierra Madre Have No Idea They Are Paying Almost $15 Million Dollars For A $6.75 Million Dollar Water Bond

Yesterday (link) we talked about a City Council meeting agenda item Sierra Madre's Mayor is apparently trying to slip in under the radar.

One clue is the title of this stealthy little number has absolutely nothing to do with the actual topic. I mean, would you have ever guessed that an agenda item poetically titled "Authorization of payments on behalf of Public Financing Authority and Successor Agency" (link) has anything to do with Sierra Madre's interest only payments on $6.75 million dollars in 2003 Water Bond debt? Just a little opaque?

The answer is probably not. This is a uniquely bad arrangement that is costing the residents of Sierra Madre millions in needlessly squandered revenue. But there is no need to alarm anyone during so celebratory an evening.

I doubt that anyone who is up on this stuff won't understand why Mayor Capoccia is trying to divert resident attention away from this mess. It is one of perhaps two of the greatest financial blunders in recent Sierra Madre's history. Committed by individuals who are still quite politically active in the community today, and would prefer that you just butt out and mind your own business.

However, and like many things that require a little extra mental exertion, most people in town won't get any of this anyway. Which is fine. Anyone who thinks that they can somehow cause the average Sierra Madrean to understand the vastly dysfunctional finances of their own city is delusional.

Better to just tell them that this was all done to save the Library. Or something. The best anyone can really hope for here is to make fun of the situation, mostly because it is already pretty laughable. In a rueful sort of way.

The following 2003 water bond debt numbers were actually put together by City Staff. This was back when MaryAnn MacGillivray was the Mayor, and she asked them do it. In stark contrast, the current Mayor isn't sharing any of this sort of information right now. Even though the matter is on tomorrow night's City Council meeting agenda.

Which is fine because I will.

There you go. Sierra Madre's 2003 water bonds were originally $6,750,000. For some reason the city decided to make interest only payments on those bonds through the year 2019, while extending all payments all the way out through the year 2034. Much of it at the cost of wasted millions in the form of interest only payments. The entire cost once all is said and done being $14,925,486, or substantially more than double the principal.

Making this just as bad as the City of Sierra Madre's financially debilitating commitment to CalPERS. Another blunder costing the city many millions of dollars it doesn't have.

Neither of these problems have yet to be discussed by the current City Council in any meaningful way. Even when they were working to raise utility taxes. And certainly neither of these towering acts of financial genius will be discussed too much tomorrow night when the above item does come up. Not when there is a party where cake and soda will be served.

Given that, why would you want to trouble your pretty little head over any of this?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sierra Madre City Hall's Continuing Slap Happy Water Bond Shenanigans

It is kind of an ongoing story, but one that City Hall can never quite bring itself to talk about. Not that you can blame them, of course. And they do have to mention it from time to time. After all, if the city is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest only water bond debt payments every year, there is no real way that you can hide it. Or at least you can't do it legally.

But you can agendize this matter for when you think that nobody will be paying any attention. And wouldn't Tuesday evening's City Council meeting be a really good time to do such a thing? You know, while all of the usual assembled worthies are busy happily congratulating each other over jacking up everybody's utility taxes?

Here is the agenda item.

Remarkable, right? "The Water Fund 2003 Revenue Bonds are interest only until 2020 when the 1998 Refinancing Revenue Bonds are paid in full." This bizarre financial arrangement is costing the city millions upon millions of dollars in interest that it didn't really have to spend, but what the heck. You can always raise everyone's water rates and taxes again. Those are near-annual events anyway, so what's the panic?

Of course, if you actually wanted to really dig into this matter, the city has included in its agenda report the following link. A little something that could give you the opportunity to do some due diligence.

So what do you get if you follow that link? What "comprehensive annual financial audits and biennial budgets" are then revealed to you?

None, actually. Instead you get this.

Congratulations, Sierra Madre. You have the government you voted for.

Just in case you are wondering, this sort of thing does have an effect. Should Sierra Madre ever decide to refinance its upside down water bonds, the interest rate the city would have to pay would be high.

Here is why (link).

But like I said, all City Hall has to do is just ask the residents for more money. You know, tell them its for the Library, or something. They're pretty naive and fall for that sort of thing every time.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pasadena Now: PUSD – Cheating is a Problem to Hide, Especially in Sierra Madre

(Mod: The following "guest editorial" appeared on the Pasadena Now news site last February, and deals with what its authors believe is the cover-up of a cheating scandal at Sierra Madre Elementary School. Despite Pasadena Now's claims of having an exceedingly large readership, I'm not sure very many people in town ever saw this.) 

Pasadena Unified School District’s flagship elementary school is Sierra Madre Elementary School. The Sierra Madre school has regularly been seen as PUSD’s highest performing school – #1 when the API scores used to come out and #1 again when the new SBAC testing regime scores came out last fall.

The Sierra Madre school is also rightfully the pride of the City of Sierra Madre. Sierra Madre enjoys an active parent support network for the school, and its citizens have long been vocal and effective proponents for resourcing the Sierra Madre school.

But now there is a question mark hanging over Sierra Madre as to whether PUSD discriminatorily protected it against disclosure of cheating at the school while taking a harsher stance toward Northwest Pasadena schools.

“PUSD wouldn’t get away doing to Sierra Madre what it did to Madison” – True or False?

A constant refrain of the grassroots coalition the Citizens’ Council for Empowerment and Justice at Madison is that PUSD would never get away with doing to Sierra Madre what it did to Madison. That refrain arises from the fact that, when Sierra Madre had to recently select a new principal, Superintendent Brian McDonald of course gave it the right to have a principal selection committee of Sierra Madre stakeholders that selected three applicants for the position — from which McDonald selected the new Sierra Madre principal.

At the same time, he refused to form a principal selection committee for Madison Elementary School; instead, he unilaterally imposed Juan Ruelas as its principal with no site input. Madison is the most heavily-Latino, most heavily English second-language, and the poorest community in PUSD, while Sierra Madre is the most heavily-White, the lowest Latino, the lowest ESL, and among the richest communities.

Saying that PUSD would never get away with doing to Sierra Madre what it did to Madison is just another way of saying that PUSD treats Madison, a Northwest Pasadena school, in a racially-discriminatory and wealth-discriminatory manner.

Some Pasadena leaders say that Madison’s grassroots organization should change its message and stop saying PUSD would never get away doing to Sierra Madre what it did to Madison. Rather than concluding that those critics are saying we should stop repeating that refrain because they don’t want to hear the unpleasant truth that PUSD is acting in a racially-discriminatory and wealth-discriminatory manner, we’ll make the more benign interpretation that they believe the accusation of differential treatment is untrue.

There’s a long history of Madison being under-resourced and Sierra Madre being well-resourced that might support the differential treatment assertion. But let’s look to a different issue to illustrate the unpleasant truth about comparative PUSD treatment of Sierra Madre and Northwest Pasadena elementary schools – i.e., the treatment of elementary schools when they are caught cheating on student testing.

The treatment of Northwest Pasadena’s Roosevelt school when it was caught cheating on state testing

On January 10, 2012, PUSD issued a press release indicating that Roosevelt Elementary School – a PUSD Northwest school closer to Madison’s demographics than to Sierra Madre’s – was caught cheating and having to forfeit its nomination as a National Blue Ribbon school. PUSD’s press release was followed by embarrassing news stories in Pasadena Now and the LA Times which reported on the Roosevelt cheating disqualification from the National Blue Ribbon honor.

Significantly, Roosevelt’s principal at the time the school got caught cheating was Juan Ruelas, the principal who McDonald later imposed on Madison. McDonald’s rationale for denying Madison stakeholders’ involvement in selecting a new principal was that Roosevelt’s test scores during Ruelas’ tenure showed that he had accomplished educational miracles at Roosevelt and that he could do the same thing for Madison.

The 2012 bad publicity has come to haunt Ruelas because it has led to the recent more searching examination of Ruelas’ record that is the basis for the grassroots coalition’s contention that Ruelas’ reputation for educational achievement at Roosevelt is built on quicksand.

Unlike Roosevelt’s cheating, Sierra Madre’s is kept under wraps

Our public records requests for documents related to the cheating at Roosevelt forced PUSD to disclose to us a smoking gun – a September 2, 2011, email that PUSD’s Chief Technology Officer at the time, Dr. Gary A Carnow, sent to 6 other PUSD administrators. In Carnow’s email was the following statement: “Roosevelt, …, and Sierra Madre will not be eligible for any awards for two years based on the filing [sic-finding] of irregularities.”

Based on Carnow’s email, we realized that Sierra Madre had cheated on test scores like Roosevelt had, so we filed a public records request with the California Department of Education. A document produced to us by the Department of Education confirmed that Sierra Madre was caught cheating around the same time that Roosevelt was caught cheating.

But unlike the public exposure of Roosevelt’s cheating, Sierra Madre’s cheating was not publicly revealed – until publication of the February 18, 2016, Sierra Madre Weekly story on Sierra’s cheating based on documents we gave it. Its story reports that PUSD Associate Superintendent Mercedes Santoro confirmed that the Sierra Madre school was caught cheating (albeit by doing her best to minimize it).

The Board of Education was apparently informed on September 13, 2011, that Sierra Madre had been caught cheating, but they learned about it in closed session. By telling the Board in closed session, the PUSD administration prevented Board members from publicly disclosing Sierra Madre’s cheating because it is a criminal misdemeanor to disclose information learned in closed sessions unless the Board as a whole votes to release the information.

Apparently no Board member has ever thought that Sierra Madre’s cheating was important enough for the Board to publicly disclose it like Roosevelt’s was disclosed. Insofar as we can determine, PUSD never issued a press release on Sierra Madre’s cheating like it did for Roosevelt, so there was no media coverage of the cheating like there was for Roosevelt until 4 ½ years later on February 18.

Thus, PUSD’s Sierra Madre flagship skated through the last 4 ½ years without its reputation for sterling educational achievement soiled by the fact that some of that achievement was earned only through cheating. The Northwest Pasadena school Roosevelt was accorded no such protection from public disclosure. PUSD would never get away with doing to Sierra Madre what it did to Madison.

The grassroots Madison coalition is going to keep repeating that PUSD would never get away with doing to Sierra Madre what it did to Madison.

Mod: This piece was written by Dale Gronemeier and Skip Hickambottom. They are described as "local civil rights attorneys who represent the Citizens Council for Empowerment and Justice at Madison." Dale Gronemeier lives in Sierra Madre. Link to the original here.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Development Dirty Money Trick That Failed In Arcadia

Money can't buy you love.

At long last the final results are in and, despite the thousands of dollars in secretive outside development campaign money that flooded into Arcadia during the last few weeks of the campaign, the leading voice for community preservation there prevailed.

In an article in today's Pasadena Star News titled "What Arcadia’s election results mean for the future of the City Council" (link), here is how all of that is described:

I think it is fairly safe to say that the effort backfired. Rather than turning the voters against the intended target of all that money, April Verlato, the injection of so much outside secretive developer cash into that campaign shocked the residents of Arcadia and in the end could have been what drove so many of them to the polls. The result being the election of Verlato and the defeat of Bob Harbicht

Funny how things work out sometimes, right? As another untended consequence, the presence of all of that funny finance created the kinds of press that money just can't buy, and in the end it could have also helped push April Verlato over the finish line. 

You can read the rest here.

Money can in itself become an issue, and in the end could have the opposite effect of what those giving it originally intended. As Tattler readers will certainly recall, in Sierra Madre a similar situation developed during the Measure V imbroglio a few years back. 

Nearly $180,000 was pumped into that election by the BIA, CAR and, of all things, the Arcadia Realtors group. Approximately $18 for every person living in town, including little infants, and all from the usual big development interests. But rather than fueling voter opposition to Measure V, that money became an issue in itself. One that likely won the election for those hoping to preserve Sierra Madre's downtown from the wrecking ball.

Some people just never learn. 

Here is an example of what the so-called "California Homeowner Association" and its suspect money bought for the Harbicht campaign.

Sometimes a candidate just deserves to lose. Obviously Bob Harbicht was one of those candidates. And no matter how much money outside developers spent to prop this undeserving fellow up, the right man lost.

Money can't buy you love. Or brains.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Arcadia City Council Vote Recount: Unofficial But Final Numbers Are In

1:45pm Update: Officials results are in. This from the City of Arcadia website (link):

11:30am Update: The final Arcadia unofficial vote count now exists. With all of those hundreds of late arriving mail-in ballots finally tallied, April Verlato and Peter Amundsen have been elected to Arcadia's City CouncilBulldozer Bob Harbicht and his big spending development pals are out on their collective ears. Democracy actually works sometimes.

Maybe they'll all move to Omaha, or something. Here's the numbers:

The Pasadena Star News is reporting it this way (link):
Final Arcadia Election Results: Peter Amundson, April Verlato win council seats Anti-mansionization candidates Peter Amundson and April Verlato will help lead the city for the next four years, according to final election results released Thursday.

The two received the highest number of votes in a field of six candidates, with Amundson securing 4,122 votes and Verlato capturing 4,077.

Trailing behind in third with 3,658 votes was veteran councilman Bob Harbicht, who ran again after taking a two-year break in 2014.

(Earlier today we said this ...)
Final count started at 10am, and we should know the results by 11am.  Recount and verification starts at 1pm and should be done by 3pm, with official results confirmed by 4pm.

The issue is all of the as yet uncounted ballots. None of those late arriving results have been totaled up as of this typing, and there a remote mathematical possibility that the names of the winning candidates might change. Here is how this story was broken down in the Pasadena Star News recently (link):

City Hall received 995 more ballots on Wednesday, and with a little over 400 votes between the second- and third-highest vote getters, the outcome of the race could still be decided after a final count. After all precincts had been counted on Tuesday, anti-mansionization candidates Peter Amundson and April Verlato were leading the race, with 3,624 and 3,609 votes each, according to semi-official results.

Bob Harbicht, a veteran councilman, trailed behind Verlato, with 3,197 votes. Retired physician Sheng Chang came in fourth, with 2,260 votes, followed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Burton Brink, who captured 1,049, and grassroots candidate Paul Van Fleet, who snagged 82 votes.

Deputy Chief City Clerk Lisa Mussenden said receiving this many ballots after the election was unprecedented. “I think we all knew this was going to be a very contentious election, and I think this is a result of all that,” she said, “but to receive 995 ballots the day after, that’s huge.”

All had the proper postmark date and will be counted, she said. About 300 additional ballots that came in on Tuesday still need to be tallied because they did not make the cutoff that night.

The Los Angeles County clerk also received dozens of provisional ballots that must still be counted. Dozens more that came in without signatures must be given back residents for them to sign so that they can be counted, she said.

As of 9:59 AM this morning, this is where the vote stands per the City of Arcadia website.

More news as we receive it. 

Sierra Madre Weekly: Lew Watanabe Bravely Battling Pancreatic Cancer

Mod: I have had a number of people contact me about Lew Watanabe. Terry Miller at the Sierra Madre Weekly put together the following for his paper, and I thought it would be right to post it here as well. Link here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Robert Fellner: Four Los Angeles retirees collected $1 million-plus pension payouts last year

(Mod: As crazy as the City of Sierra Madre's $9 million dollars in unfunded CalPERS pension debt might be, it hasn't gotten to quite Los Angeles level here. At least not yet. But that doesn't mean they won't try.)

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

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

A full-career is defined as at least 25 years of service for police and fire retirees, and 30 years for regular retirees.