Meg Whitman Won't Touch Police Pensions, Predicts Union Prez Alan Barcelona

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Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 2:42 PM

click to enlarge Meg Whitman - TED SOQUI
  • Ted Soqui
  • Meg Whitman
Ted Soqui
Meg Whitman
The head of a state law enforcement union predicted Tuesday that Meg Whitman won't cut police pensions if she is elected governor.

"I wouldn't think that would be on her radar," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California State Law Enforcement Association, which is backing Whitman. "Her number one goal is gonna be jobs."

Barcelona's name came up during the controversy over a voice mail recording in which an aide to Jerry Brown, or possibly his wife, is heard referring to Whitman as a "whore."

On Sept. 7, Brown left the voice mail for Scott Rate of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. In the message, he complained about Barcelona and CSLEA's support for Whitman. After failing to hang up the phone, Brown can be heard suggesting that Whitman had cut a "secret deal" to protect public safety pensions in exchange for law enforcement support.

Barcelona denied that allegation.

"There never was a secret deal," he said.

Whitman's position on police pensions did change, however, after she met with Barcelona and his union allies in March.

Barcelona said that he saw Whitman give a speech at the California Republican Party convention in Santa Clara, which occurred on March 12. In the speech, she vowed to switch all new state employees to 401(k)-style pension plans. Barcelona said that a former Pete Wilson aide, who now works for Whitman, came over to his group's table and said, "She doesn't mean you guys. She just doesn't have a lot of experience yet in what everybody does."

Barcelona said that when he met with Whitman a short time later, he explained that you have to offer extra incentives to find recruits for dangerous jobs.

"There's three groups of people that put more on the line every day: police, fire and the military," Barcelona said he told her. "You have to have something at the end of that rainbow for it."

Whitman changed her position in a speech on March 24 to the Alliance of California Law Enforcement. In that speech, she said she would carve out an exemption to the 401(k) plans for public safety employees, who would be allowed to keep their defined benefit plans.

At a press conference on Sunday, Whitman said she does want the state's public safety workers to pay higher contributions, retire later, and have longer vesting periods. But much of that was accomplished with the budget that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just signed into law.

Whitman credited Schwarzenegger for making "a baby step in the right direction," but said that more needs to be done to guarantee the pension system's solvency.

But Barcelona said there was nothing left for her to do.

"I think that's pretty much done," he said. "It went back to pre-1999 levels."

Barcelona's group represents some employees who work for the attorney general's office, and he said that Brown has been lackluster in his leadership of the office over the past four years.

In particular, the union was not happy when the Legislature proposed cutting Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement task forces last year. Barcelona said Brown did nothing to save the task forces. Instead, Barcelona and 40 agents had to lobby the Legislature to maintain them, he said.

"He's basically been a non-entity," Barcelona said. "Our board felt that Jerry already had his chance."

In the voice mail, Brown calls Barcelona "not one of our stalwart officers, if you want my opinion." Barcelona said he was "disappointed" by the remark.

"I've taken a lot of shots over the years," he said. "I was sad to see him do that."

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