3 retired city employees each receive more than $100,000 in CalPERS pensions

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Three retired city of Lincoln employees make more than $100,000 each in CalPERS pensions. That’s according to The California Pension Reform’s ‘The CalPERS 100K Club’” website, which provides the number of retired California government workers receiving pensions of $100,000 or more from CalPERS. John Pedri, former director of public works from July 8, 1997 to Sept. 6, 2009, is making $116,365.20 a year from CalPERS. Gerald Johnson, who was Lincoln city manager from Aug. 12, 2001 to April 30, 2008 prior to Jim Estep’s hire, makes $116,591.40 a year from CalPERS. Rodney Campbell, who retired from the city last year as the director of development services for 26 years, receives $103,377.36 in pension from CalPERS annually. Campbell was rehired Dec. 23 2009 at $61, 939 to serve as the interim director of community services. “I think at the time the negotiations were made for their contracts, the people who were responsible for that should be held accountable,” Vi Kuka said before the Aug. 10 City Council meeting about the three retirees each making more than $100,000 in pensions. “That’s a warning to the people who are negotiating contracts now.” Resident Ed Zychowski deemed it “awful.” “I think government employees make too much money,” Zychowski said. “There are 20 percent of the people who are unemployed here and they can’t find jobs.” The News Messenger called numbers listed online for both Johnson and Pedri, and the phone number for Campbell’s office at City Hall last week and this week to ask each if it was fair that they’re receiving more than $100,000 a year in pension, given the city’s current financial situation. This question was left for all three, and by press time Wednesday, none responded. Campbell is still employed by the city of Lincoln as an interim director of development services, and is working for the city as a retired annuitant, according to public information officer Jill Thompson. The city’s human resources manager Debbie Lindh said a retired annuitant is “a person that is receiving a retirement pension and is restricted in the amount of hours they can work for a public sector agency that is a CalPERS member. Campbell is not receiving health benefits and retirement pension benefits as a retired annuitant (current city employee) and is limited to the number of hours he can work per year. All three receive medical benefits as retired employees. Campbell can only work 960 hours with the city, which is not quite 20 hours a week per year, according to Lindh. Lindh said Campbell makes $64.52 an hour with the city, which comes out to $61,939.20 yearly, with a savings to the city of $40,894.80 a year. “Rod has been here for over 30 years, and probably knows the city better than anyone here,” Lindh said. “He’s a wealth of information, which is something that would be difficult to get without spending a lot of money.” The News Messenger asked Lindh which city employees currently making $100,000 a year are eligible to retire now. “Based on last year’s earnings, four currently employed miscellaneous employees had a salary of or above $100,000 and five currently employed safety employees had a salary of or above $100,000,” Lindh said via e-mail. “Of those, all of the miscellaneous employees are age 50 or older so could retire, and none of the safety employees are age 50 and eligible to retire.” The four employees currently eligible for retirement are City Manager Jim Estep, Financial Analyst reporting to the community services department Steve Ambrose, assistant director of development services George Dellwo, and chief building inspector and building official Todd Cunningham. Estep, who will be vested with the city of Lincoln in three years, is not eligible now to receive a pension from Lincoln but could receive a pension from the other CalPERS agencies he has worked for, according to Lindh. Lindh explained that miscellaneous employees are city employees who don’t work for the police or fire departments. Dispatchers, community service officers and office supervisors in those departments would fall under the miscellaneous category. To be eligible to receive CalPERS pension as a Lincoln city employee, employees must be vested, or have worked for Lincoln for at least five years, and be at least 50 years old, according to Lindh. This year, the city of Lincoln will pay a total of $307,000 in retiree medical benefits for, according to Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak. The News Messenger asked Jatczak for the names of the retirees receiving medical benefits, and she told The News Messenger via e-mail Wednesday morning that they would need to enter in a formal public records act request. Thompson said 36 retirees receive medical benefits from the city of Lincoln, in response to a question from The News Messenger about the number of retirees the city currently has and how many of those retirees are receiving medical benefits. “This is not the total number of retirees as it does not include retirees that do not receive medical benefits,” Thompson said, who suggested contacting CalPERS to find out the number of city of Lincoln employees that are retired. CalPERS directed The News Messenger to get the most recent CalPERS actuarial valutation report of the City of Lincoln retirement report. The News Messenger submitted a public records request from the city Aug. 16 for that report. Lindh told The News Messenger that miscellaneous employees are eligible for 2.7 percent of their highest salary with the city at age 55, and safety employees are eligible for 3 percent at age 50. “There are 24 fire personnel and 30 police personnel that could potentially retire from the city of Lincoln with the 3 percent at 50 formula,” Thompson said. “There are 114 miscellaneous personnel that could potentially retire from the city of Lincoln with the 2.7 percent at 55 formula.”