CalPers Knew About Bell Salaries In 2006?

As we predicted last week, the fiasco in Bell, where the city manager and his assistant and the police chief were making exorbitant salaries, is like a political vortex of anti-government fervor, with flying debris hitting more than just Bell.

This morning The Times reports that CalPERS, the state's giant pension system, knew about the salary of Robert Rizzo, who was making nearly $800,000 when he resigned last month, way back in 2006, but did nothing.

A memo sent from CalPERS staff to the pension fund's board shows they told Bell officials they'd need an exemption so that Rizzo could receive a 47 percent (!) pay hike and still get his pension.

Then, incredibly, when CalPERS learned that other top officials were getting similar pay hikes, they decided an exemption wasn't needed. A spokesman said under the system's rules, as long as it's not just one employee but a whole class of them getting fatty raises, then it's cool. OK, glad we cleared that up.

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The spokesman told The Times, "Our job is to enforce the statues that govern the retirement law," he said in a statement. "Pay and compensation is the decision of city and county elected officials."

OK, fine, but next time you hear of a city administrator getting a 47 percent raise, how about dropping a dime to the Weekly, m'kay?

But that's probably no longer necessary, as public employee pay disclosure became the new cool thing for the politically ambitious, as state Controller John Chiang said he would require all city and state salaries be posted online by the end of the year, following a similar commitment from L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Meanwhile, CalPERS has already announced it won't allow the pensions of the three Bell officials, who have now all resigned, to go through, until investigations are complete. Attorney General Jerry Brown, Chiang and District Attorney Steve Cooley all have investigators looking into Bell.

But CalPERS will now be viewed as complicit, which will make for great talk radio fodder. And as we noted last week, this just makes it tougher for people who believe government can do something for somebody, because it whips up anti-government sentiments right in advance of the November election. Meg Whitman should be thanking CalPERS this morning.


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