MOORLACH UPDATE — Harold De Boer — March 13, 2013

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting we narrowed the field of Clerk-Recorder applicants down to eleven candidates. The OC Register and the Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch (courtesy of City News Service) provide the story in the first two pieces below.

At the conclusion of the meeting I adjourned in memory of my uncle, Harold DeBoer, who passed away Monday morning. He was a wonderful father and husband and a fun uncle, who spent a lot of time in Orange County in his early days, including visiting the dairy I lived on fifty years ago at 5352 Orange Avenue in the city of Cypress. He was one of my mother’s five older brothers. The Magic Valley Times-News, from the Twin Falls area in Idaho, provides his obituary in the third piece below.

Eleven selected for clerk-recorder interviews

By ANDREW GALVIN

SANTA ANA – Orange County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday continued to whittle the number of candidates under consideration for the vacant clerk-recorder position, choosing 11 – out of an initial applicant pool of nearly 900 – who will get a chance to interview for the $140,000-a-year job.

The surviving candidates are:

•Dick Ackerman, attorney, former state senator and assemblyman

•Larry Bales, FDIC settlement agent

•Michael J. Fox, attorney

•Steven Madoff, consultant, former executive vice president of Paramount Pictures

•Hieu Nguyen, assistant clerk of Board of Supervisors, former chief deputy recorder, ran for clerk-recorder in 2010

•Chris Norby, retired teacher, former state assemblyman and county supervisor

•Bruce Peotter, attorney, former assistant public administrator/public guardian, ran for clerk-recorder in 2002, ran for assessor in 1998

•Renee Ramirez, assistant clerk-recorder who is currently running the department

•Roy Reynolds, personal rapid transit consultant

•Steve Rosansky, real estate company president, former Newport Beach councilman and mayor

•Harry Sidhu, business owner, former Anaheim councilman

Occupational information for the candidates was provided by the office of Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

"It’s so important to hear from a diverse and qualified group of applicants," Spitzer said afterward, in an emailed statement. "This is not an insider’s game."

The vacancy was created when Tom Daly, the elected clerk-recorder since 2002, won a seat in the state Assembly in November. Whoever is appointed to replace him as clerk-recorder will have to run for election in 2014 to keep the job.

The clerk-recorder, with a staff of 101 and a yearly budget of $11.6 million, is responsible for examining and recording documents regarding ownership of land in the county, and for maintaining certified copies of birth, death and marriage certificates. The department also issues marriage licenses, performs civil marriage ceremonies, files fictitious business name statements and processes passport applications, among other duties.

The only requirements are that the clerk-recorder must be a resident of Orange County and registered to vote in the county on the day he or she is appointed.

The supervisors plan to set aside a full day to conduct public interviews of the 11 candidates. A date hasn’t been set.

Separately, the supervisors held an initial discussion on how to select someone to fill the auditor-controller position, which is also vacant.

Of 29 applicants for the position, only about 10 have the required professional qualifications, board Chairman Shawn Nelson said. At the suggestion of Supervisor John Moorlach, the board voted to ask each of the qualified candidates whether they are presently receiving a pension earned from prior government work, as the board frowns on hiring so-called "double dippers."

Contact the writer: agalvin

Former Newport Councilman Among Finalists for Clerk-Recorder’s Post

Steve Rosanksy, who served on the Newport Beach City Council, is among the 11 applicants who scored an interview for the clerk-recorder’s position.

Orange County supervisors narrowed the number of candidates vying to be the county’s next clerk-recorder to 11 and plan to interview them at a public hearing in the near future.

Renee Ramirez has been the interim clerk-recorder since the resignation of Tom Daly, who was elected to the Assembly. Ramirez is on the list of 11 candidates to be interviewed.

Among the more notable finalists are former Supervisor and Assemblyman Chris Norby, former state Sen. Dick Ackerman, ex-Anaheim City Councilman Harry Sidhu, and former Newport Beach City Councilman Steve Rosansky.

Former Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Linda Dixon did not make the cut.

The others who will be interviewed by the supervisors include Larry Bales, Michael Fox, Steven Madoff, Hieu Nguyen, Bruce Peotter, and Roy Reynolds.

Bales appears to be a retired county employee, so he may be disqualified later because the supervisors don’t want someone collecting a county pension to also draw a salary, making them a "double dipper," Supervisor John Moorlach said.

County officials received about 900 applicants for the job.

-City News Service

Harold De Boer

CASTLEFORD • Harold De Boer, 84, of Castleford, passed away Monday, March 11, 2013, at his home.

Harold was born in Ulrum, Netherlands, to Jantje and Lammert De Boer on Oct. 13, 1928. After attending school and college, he worked on the family farm. In 1952, he emigrated to Southern California, where he worked on a dairy farm, at lumberyard and eventually became a truck driver. He married Gladys Verboom on Oct. 10, 1958, in Paramount, Calif. Together they had five sons. Harold eventually became an owner-operator in the trucking business, hauling hay to various dairies.

In 1979, he moved the family to Castleford, Idaho, where he bought Harold’s United Service, which became a family operated business. Harold mainly delivered the fuel, with son, Dan, doing the mechanic work; sons, Bill and Jim, worked there after school and during vacations. Gladys did the bookkeeping and running for parts. In 1998 when Dan went out on his own in Wendell, the business was scaled down to just fuels. He ran the business by himself until he retired in 2003.

Harold was an original member of the Castleford QRU. He was a member of the Castleford Men’s Club and was honored by the club with a Citizen of the Year Award in 2009. He was an assistant Little League coach for a few years and got great joy out of watching young kids play. He also was one of the most devoted fans of the Castleford High School basketball team.

He was preceded in death by his son, Robert; his parents; sister, Annie Wiersema; and three brothers, Jacob, Edward and Dick De Boer. Harold is survived by his wife, Gladys; four sons, Bryan (Cindy) of Nuevo, Calif., Dan (Tammy) of Twin Falls, Jim (Judy) of Meridian and Bill of Bonney Lake, Wash.; granddaughters, Kristina (Shaw) Gentry, Darci De Boer, Danielle De Boer, Jessica De Boer and Jennifer De Boer; two step-grandsons, Caden and Conor Wiley; one great-grandson, Grayson Gentry; brother, John (Tena) of Minnesota; and sister, Rita (Kent) Moorlach of California.

A graveside service will be 11 a.m. Friday, March 15, at the West End Cemetery in Buhl. Services are under the direction of Farmer Funeral Chapel in Buhl.

In lieu of flowers, you may make contributions to the Castleford Quick Response Unit, the Castleford Men’s Club or a charity of your choice.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

March 9

1993

My monthly Daily Pilot column submission was titled “Confessions of a GOP wonk – A diary of life at the Republican state organizing convention.” Having just attended the California Republican Party organizing convention this past March 1-3, it was fun to reread my experiences from twenty years ago. I had the privilege of attending this March’s convention with a friend who was participating for the first time. Shadowing a newbie brought back fond memories that I’ve experienced after having attended most of these semi-annual conventions over the past two decades. And since my traveling companion had not been in the Capitol for some 50 years, it was fun to experience the sites through his eyes.

The following is John Moorlach’s diary of his trip to the state Republican organizing convention, Feb. 26-28.

I flew out of Ontario for the first time on South West Airlines and landed in Sacramento. Because of tax season I delayed my departure until 11:50 a.m. By 2:10 p.m. I was at the Hyatt Regency across from the Capitol. Immediately through the door I ran into Orange County friends like Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, State Sen. John Lewis, and John Carvolli, as well as many Republican Assembly (CRA) statewide acquaintances.

The general session started at 2:30 p.m. and offered brief officers’ reports and nominating speeches. Attorney General Dan Lungren was the guest speaker.

The banquet started at 8 p.m. and featured Gov. Pete Wilson. He gave a good speech. It was nice to hear him talk about not increasing taxes, and even wanting to decrease them. (It’s too bad he didn’t give this speech two years ago.)

Afterwards there were enough receptions throughout the hotel to keep everyone occupied. Old friends were seen and new ones were made. It gave new meaning to Republican “party.”

The Sunday prayer breakfast at 7:30 a.m. headed by friend Jim Shade was inspirational. Our speaker was a teenager who survived a saline abortion 15 years ago. She gave a moving testimony of her life, her adoptive parents, and her relationship with Jesus Christ. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

The final marathon session, which began at 9:15 a.m., was opened with a speech from Bruce Herschensohn. Outgoing and outstanding chairman Jim Dignan gave his final report.

The report from the Resolutions Committee, chaired by Howard Klein, included controversial items about censoring Assemblyman Paul Horcher and opposition to allowing gays into the military. The Horcher Resolution was tabled at the request of Dorothy Hughes of Assemblyman Gil Ferguson’s office. Gil spoke against this “raw meat” resolution. To make a long story short, Horcher has been the most disappointing of our 32 Republican assembly members. It was good for him to “twist in the wind” a little so that he can understand party unity, instead of hiding behind it.

Tirso Del Junco was voted in as the new chairman. He gave his “It’s tax and spend, stupid!” introductory speech. Other uncontested races were also approved and at noon it was off to the voting booths.

For treasurer, the choice was supposed to be easy. Follow board member and current CRA president Michael Schroeder was running. Schroeder is an Irvine resident and would give another Orange County presence on the state’s board. However, Carol Bentley, a recent challenger, had her nomination seconded by our assemblyman’s lovely wife, Anita.

I then had the honor of serving as a ballot counting observer for Michael Schroeder. Orange County Chairman Tom Fuentes served as head teller. Watching a Scantron machine is not that exciting. But after the over 1,200 ballots were processed, the treasurer’s race was too close to call.

There were some 30 envelopes with provisional ballots cast that may have been contestable. So they were held back. If there was a vote spread of less than 30, we would analyze each envelope on a case-by-case basis and process the allowable ballots.

Schroeder was ahead of Bentley by only three votes. First we pulled the ballots that did not report a vote for either candidate, according to the Scantron’s sort. There were 29 ballots that were not read. Like a poker game, each of these ballots were turned over and observed to determine if there was a mark cast and for whom. After this process Schroeder increased his lead to 15 votes.

It was time to analyze the 30 envelopes. The provisional ballots included about a dozen of Matt Fong’s appointments who were approved for inclusion that morning. Unpaid dues pulled several out of the meet, including those of Buck Johns and Tom Fuentes (wait until Jerry Kobrin hears about this). Payind dues is so important. The net result: Bentley picked up only one vote. Schroeder wins 627 to 613. Pandemonium.

It was now 3 p.m. My plane was leaving at 4 p.m. I grabbed my luggage and boarded a shuttle bus that was just leaving. The plane flight home was loaded with Republicans and I shared opposing seats with the McAulsays, John Ben and Sen. Frank Hill. What a conversation. What a whirlwind. What a blast!

John Moorlach is a local businessman and past president of the Costa Mesa Republican Assembly.

2003

The OC Register’s Sunday Commentary section weekly column by Steven Greenhut was titled “Are these jobs for government?” Greenhut addressed proposed cuts being made to the County’s budget. In the middle of his column, he addressed the concern of growing public employee defined benefit pension costs. Greenhut grasped the severity of the concerns I had raised in my recent editorial submission (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Governor — February 23, 2013, the last LOOK BACK). His prophecy in the last sentence below has come true.

One of the big changes was the passage in 2001 of a law allowing a “3 percent at 50” retirement program for public safety officers in California. Authored by Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, the result is a taxpayer-funded pension spike that is increasing pension costs at dramatic rates in the state.

Cop and fire union officials insist the law doesn’t mandate that every agency adopt the generous new benefits (3 percent of pay times years of service, meaning public service officials can retire with 90 percent of pay after 30 years). But, as county Treasurer John Moorlach explained in a recent Register column, the law sparked a feeding frenzy. First the California Highway Patrol passed the upgraded pension plan, then everyone else had to follow lest they couldn’t retain “quality” officers.

With the stock market down, and Sacramento pols wanting to invest pension funds in politically correct investments, taxpayers are going to be left picking up the slack. Already, AB 94 has been introduced this year, which allows property tax increases to, among other things, “make payments in support of pension programs.” Expect such efforts to expand.

2008

The Sunday editorial in the Daily Pilot was titled “Annexation could harm city relations.” This is still one of the projects that would be great to conclude before my term does.

It’s an odd dilemma.

Should Newport Beach City Council members push forward with an attempt to annex the Santa Ana Country Club and a nearby neighborhood? The neighbors sure want them to. They don’t want a Costa Mesa ZIP code.

But Costa Mesa leaders say hold on, the Local Agency Formation Commission, which has final say on the matter, gives Costa Mesa first dibs. And Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau advised his council to back off, arguing it would be unwise to tick off their Costa Mesa neighbors.

The Newport Beach Council members don’t care. They voted 6-1, with Councilman Don Webb dissenting, to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission for permission to annex the 290 acres.

“We are entering a new era of cooperation with the city of Costa Mesa, and it would be the wrong thing to do to foster that relationship,” Bludau said before the vote.

Well said, Homer. We couldn’t agree more.

We’re all neighbors. We share a school district and many other things beyond geographical coincidence.

And we have a number of big projects we need to start putting our shoulders into — together.

It won’t be easy to stave off expansion plans for John Wayne Airport when the 2015 settlement capping flights expires. But it was nice to see the Costa Mesa City Council follow Newport’s lead in opposing airport expansion.

And what about development plans for Banning Ranch that would likely require an extension of the 55 Freeway?

We recognize that County board Supervisor John Moorlach tried to broker a “global approach” that would have resolved a lot of issues regarding the unincorporated land in the area. But his George Mitchell imitation fell flat, and he could not hammer out a deal.

So perhaps it’s naive to expect our political leaders to play nice and forge a compromise. But that won’t stop us from calling on them to cooperate for the greater good.

After all, it’s not as if Newport Beach can pick up stakes and move if Costa Mesa figures out a way to annex the country club. Like it or not, they live next door to each other, and it’s always better to get along with your neighbors. You never know when you’ll have to borrow a cup of sugar or have them pick up your mail when you’re on vacation, so to speak.

The OC Register’s Commentary section also had an editorial, titled “County finances could bring June gloom.”

John Moorlach, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, regaled attendees at the Orange County Forum’s State of the County address on Wednesday with reminders of what a wonderful place this is to live. Hey, "it’s forever summer," as the county’s new logo proclaims, and the weather and beaches are as nice as ever.

But rather than bask in the glow of O.C. living, Mr. Moorlach also reminded the county of some of its ongoing and upcoming problems:

1) The board has succeeded at reducing retired county employee medical costs, which avoids unfunded-liability problems faced in many other California communities. But Mr. Moorlach noted that the retirees are suing the county, and if they prevail that could impose budget problems;

2) The county has some volatile investments; and

3) Most significantly, the county receives the bulk of its income from property taxes, and the real estate market remains in a freefall.

We never heard county officials complain when property taxes were bringing in record tax revenues, but we understand the concern and appreciate current efforts by the board to rein in expenses – especially its decision to challenge the legality of a retroactive union pension spike approved by a past board.

Panelist Steve PonTell, president of the La Jolla Institute, called for more regional solutions to the area’s problems, but we’d like to hear more calls for private solutions. Frankly, most of the good things detailed at the luncheon are the result of the private sector (or Mother Nature). Almost all the problems are found in the public sector, which is now Orange County’s main growth industry. The key to building a sustainable future remains the same as ever: keep government limited to a handful of essential tasks, move more decisions to the free market.

And the OC Register’s Commentary section included this letter to the editor, titled “O.C. jail plan short on staff high on danger.”

Supervisor John Moorlach, along with acting sheriff Anderson, proposes to hire and staff the Orange County jails with what they describe as less-qualified and less-trained correctional officers and pay them at one-half the cost. This is proposed to be a big savings to the county, which is a valid assumption only if they continue to staff the jails with one-half the recommended jailer-to-inmate staffing ratio.

Orange County has long staffed the jails with much less jailer staff than any other facility in California. They have admitted this lack of staff in the jails as recently as last year.

This lack of sufficient staff contributes to the danger faced by everyone in the jail, deputies and inmates alike, and exposes the county to increased liability due to more work-related injuries, lost time off work, lawsuits by inmates beaten and injured due to violence by other inmates, etc.

To continue with the existing 34-1 inmate to jailer ratio will provide a savings under their correctional officer proposal. But, with less qualified and less trained jailers, taxpayers had better be prepared to pay a significant amount of any "savings" to settle more lawsuits and larger payouts injuries if the chronic under staffing of the jails is continued. There is doubtful to be any savings at all and likely to be more cost and liability to taxpayers under this proposal.

John Mauger

Westminster

March 10

2008

Rick Reiff, in his weekly “OC Insider” column for the Orange County Business Journal, titled “Edward Buys Prime Pebble Beach Lot; OC’s Acting Sheriff,” provides his perspectives on recent events.

He’s acting sheriff with the emphasis on “act.” Jack Anderson, who wants to be appointed as Mike Carona’s permanent replacement, has already fired a former superior (Jo Ann Galisky) amid a grand jury probe of a jail beating death. And he’s gone where Carona didn’t dare: He has proposed replacing close to 800 jail deputies with lower-paid correctional officers. (The replacements would be phased in as deputies retire or are reassigned.) The deputies’ union has howled, but the supes have reacted favorably toward an idea that could save tens of millions of dollars annually. And Nick Berardino, whose union for non-deputy county employees could wind up representing the new jail personnel, calls Anderson’s plan “the boldest move in 30 years of county government.” Compared to it, says Berardino, Supe John Moorlach’s attempt to rescind the deputies’ “retroactive” pension increases, “looks like a lawn party.”

March 12

2008

The Daily Pilot provided a photo of the head table for the Orange Coast Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast:

Tim Salmon, center, a former star baseball player with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, gets a standing

ovation from John Moorlach, far left, Pastor Eric Heard, Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry and

Newport Beach Mayor Ed Selich at the 44th annual Orange Coast Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast at the Hyatt

Regency Irvine on Tuesday.

The 49th annual event took place last Friday, March 8th, featuring Steve Scheibner, 1st Officer, American Airlines & Commander U.S. Navy Reserve, Author, “In My Seat.”

A video was presented before Dr. Scheibner’s remarks, which can be seen at

.

March 13

2008

The website headline was “Sheriff’s Department scolded in O.C. jail death – A special grand jury says the agency’s decision to investigate the case itself violates a policy dating from 1985,” but the LA Times dead tree headline was “Panel finds fault in jail death probe – The O.C. Sheriff’s Department violated policy by investigating itself after homicide, a special grand jury says.” The piece was written by Christine Hanley, Stuart Pfeifer and Christian Berthelsen. The murder of John Derek Chamberlain occurred between my election and my swearing in as a County Supervisor. I was so deeply impacted by this egregious event that occurred in one of the County’s jails, that I spent time with then Sheriff Carona to address it. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas impaneled a special grand jury to review the matter. As a result, we now have an Office of Independent Review (OIR), a new sheriff who has embraced the OIR as a significant management tool, and a much better reputation (especially when compared to the county next door to the north).

A special grand jury that reviewed the fatal beating of a Theo Lacy Jail inmate scolded the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for investigating the death itself rather than turning the case over to the district attorney, violating a 20-year-old policy "through conscious choice or negligent action."

In a letter made public Wednesday, the panel pointed out that the policy adopted in 1985 had been honored in 129 out of 130 custodial death investigations. The sole deviation came in October 2006, the night of John Chamberlain’s death.

"Although the terms of the protocol unambiguously call for the district attorney’s office to act as the primary investigative agency in all custodial deaths and the execution of this policy operated without exception for more than two decades, the Sheriff’s Department inexplicably insisted on leading this particular investigation," the grand jury report says.

"It may never be known what, if any, impact this action may have had on the results of the homicide investigation."

Chamberlain, 41, of Mission Viejo died after about 20 inmates at the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange beat him for nearly half an hour while an on-duty deputy watched TV in the guard station. The inmates wrongly believed Chamberlain was charged with child molestation. In fact, he was accused of possessing child pornography.

This year the county agreed to pay $600,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by Chamberlain’s father.

The grand jury spent nine months investigating Chamberlain’s death, finding that no crimes were committed by sheriff’s deputies accused of instigating the assault and ignoring the victim’s cries for help. Nine inmates have been charged in the case.

The grand jury’s letter was dated Feb. 28 and addressed to John Moorlach, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.

Moorlach said he believed the Sheriff’s Department had learned from mistakes it made in the Chamberlain case. He also said the board’s decision to create an Office of Independent Review to monitor the Sheriff’s Department’s internal-affairs investigations would help.

J. M. Brown of the Vallejo Times-Herald provided an update on a public employee pension reform effort that I was involved with in “Group recommends pension reform – Organization focuses on reducing costs of employee retirements.”

A pension reform organization focused on reducing the cost of public employee retirements has recommended that Vallejo follow Orange County’s lead in pursuing a lawsuit to cut its unfunded liability in police and fire benefits.

Based on a review of Vallejo’s certified year-end financial audits and reports by the state controller, The nonprofit California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility (CFFR) issued a report March 2 suggesting Vallejo could save $5 million in future years if it successfully sued to reverse what the organization called "illegal" retroactive pension increases OK’d by the City Council eight years ago. It based its findings on a review of Vallejo’s year-end financial audits and state controller reports.

The foundation said Vallejo could mirror its case after a similar suit the Orange County Board of Supervisors filed last month. CFFR said Vallejo could argue that the retroactive increase the council approved as part of the 2000 public safety labor contracts was unconstitutional because it charged more money and created a debt for services already rendered.

"Despite the fact that the benefit recipients had already been paid in full for their services under the terms of their contracts, the Vallejo City Council awarded retroactive benefits to employees," CFFR vice president and treasurer Marcia Fritz wrote. "The citizens of Vallejo were never given the opportunity to vote or approve this pension giveaway."

Fritz, a Citrus Heights certified public accountant, serves numerous municipal clients.

"Payment of these additional pension benefits using future tax revenues violates the California constitutional limitations on incurring city debt to be funded by future-year taxes. This multi-million dollar giveaway also violates the state constitutional limitations on granting extra pay to incumbent public employees for work already completed."

Fritz said she would recommend Vallejo seek to nullify the retroactive retirement increases only if it files for bankruptcy because it would be cheaper.

Fritz shared the foundation’s report with Vallejo’s bankruptcy attorney, Marc Levinson, before the city council’s critical vote last week to OK a stopgap deal with safety unions to wipe out a $6 million budget deficit.

Levinson declined to remark on the foundation’s report, citing attorney-client confidentiality.

After reading part of the CFFR report, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said Vallejo has not explored filing a suit to overturn the retroactive raises.

"Our focus is on the mediation and finding a solution outside bankruptcy," he said. Still, Whittom added, "The city complied with CalPERS (the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s) requirements when (Vallejo) has had changes in the past to its benefit structure, and nothing we’ve heard from CalPERS indicates to us that there is an issue."

Alan C. Davis, attorney for Vallejo’s safety unions, said he believes the city would be unsuccessful in canceling retroactive pension increases. He said that about the time the council and unions agreed to the increases, CalPERS was encouraging municipal governments that were over-funded in pension accounts to augment their liability through benefits hikes to avoid a higher tax status.

A CalPERS spokesman declined immediate comment on the report, but said he would research it.

After being made aware of the CFFR report by the Times-Herald, several Vallejo council members declined to take a position, saying it might interfere with the ongoing labor talks. Others were not available for comment.

Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes, a vocal critic of the labor contracts that expire in 2010, said she would ask the city attorney to render an opinion about the report. "We need to watch what happens in Orange County," Gomes said. "If illegal payments are happening, it needs to be stopped."

The crux of the issue

CFFR’s recommendation for Vallejo, as well as Orange County’s lawsuit to nullify retroactive pension benefits for its 2,000 sheriff’s deputies, could have statewide implications, Fritz said, because the cases would grant local governments authority to rein in pension deficits. She said Vallejo’s has 20 percent of unfunded pension liability.

Fritz said in 2000, the council agreed to hike public safety pensions from 2 percent to 3 percent of final year’s pay at age 50 times the number of years worked. They then made that increase retroactive for every year worked before 2000. A similar agreement was worked out in 2001 with other labor groups to hike pension increases from 2 percent to 2.7 percent at age 55 and make them retroactive.

Fritz said the labor contracts increased the pensions of public safety workers who serve at least 30 years from 60 percent of final wages to 90 percent, at age 50. The agreements also increased the pensions of miscellaneous workers from 60 percent of final wages at age 55 to 80 percent.

If a lawsuit to throw out retroactive pension increases were successful, Fritz said Vallejo employees would not have to repay the benefits they have already received as a result, but their retirements would be recalculated to remove future pay-outs from the retroactive increases, Fritz said.

"The city wouldn’t get the money back," Fritz said. "[But] if we invalidated the whole retroactive portion of the increase, then we would save $5 million."

John M.W. Moorlach, chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has zeroed in on pension reform as key to restructuring the county’s budget. The county has emerged from filing the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history more than 13 years ago, but still faces financial struggles.

Moorlach led the board’s vote to sue the county’s pension provider to scale back retroactive 1 percent retirement increases for sheriff’s deputies that he estimated causes the county’s pension fund to drop from being 103 percent funded to 70 percent funded in 2002.

The case was filed Feb. 1. Moorlach’s chief of staff, Mario Mainero said he believes the county’s chances of winning are good.

"You cannot pay extra compensation to public employees after they completed their work," Mainero told the Times-Herald. "Whether at the trial court or Supreme Court, we are dead right, and we will prevail."

J.D. Miller, a Vallejo CPA and longtime critic of the public safety contracts, agrees the city needs to reform its retirement benefits, as well as reduce police and fire salaries.

"In retirement, most of us who work will be lucky to retire with 60 percent of what we earned, plus Social Security," Miller said. "And those of us who are lucky enough to retire with this much income will see the value go down during their retirement because the only part of their retirement income that will increase will be their Social Security. Their retirement check will never increase."

But, Miller continued, "The retirement checks of those who retired from the city of Vallejo will likely triple during their retirement because of the cost-of-living increases that the citizens of Vallejo will continue to pay them, some from that fixed, unchanging retirement check that they receive."

OCMETRO BUSINESS, on its “TICKER” page, under “Biz bites,” had the following piece on my recent “State of the County,” titled “State of the county? Holding tight.” You can accuse me of not sugar-coating an important topic – we were headed into a lengthy recession and we had better be acting like it. It looks like the writer understood the gravity of what I was trying to communicate.

“There are cracks in the dike,” Supervisor John Moorlach said at the annual Orange County Community Indicators Report meeting, hosted a few days ago by the Orange County Forum.

He said he didn’t know whether to title his portion of the presentation – shared with Lucy Dunn of the Orange County Business Council and Steve PonTell of The La Jolla Institute – “May You Live in Interesting Times” or “Iceberg Dead Ahead.”

The annual report is perhaps the best measure of how the county is performing in terms of government, jobs and social services. The economic struggles are felt across the board. For example, the county’s general fund is 80% funded by property taxes, which could take a hit in the recessionary real estate market. Sales tax revenues are off 38% year-to-date; they were down 9% last year, which shows the consumer has really pulled off the pedal (auto sales are way down).

“Hopefully, we can hold everything back,” Moorlach said.

PonTell connecte 3 dots: “The costs of things are going up; you don’t have enough housing; there’s a demographic shift – Orange County is getting older, and older populations demand more services.”

He and Dunn suggested that Southern California governments work together on challenges ranging from infrastructure to water.

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