Watchdog: Council does end run around new state law on pensions
“I’m only going to dread one day at a time.” – Charles Schulz
Council pulled an end run on December 27 at a special council meeting, just before AB340, California’s new voter approved law increasing retirement ages for new public employees (2.7% @ age 57 for Safety and 2% @ 62 for Miscellaneous) becomes effective on January 1. They did so by adopting an Urgency Ordinance for Public Peace, Health or Safety which needed to become effective by December 31, 1012.
The ordinance amended the signed September 1, 2012 contract agreement with police officers (3% at 55) and restored the more lucrative 3% at 50 pension formula for veteran police officers and a 2.7% @ 55 formula for miscellaneous employees. The ordinance required an affirmative 4/5th vote of Council to pass. The vote was 4-1 with Councilman Gary Agopian voting no.
The city’s rational for the ordinance was the need to implement a recruitment advantage in the marketplace in order to be able to recruit and retain Public Safety employees, both sworn and non-sworn. The Antioch Police Department now has 32 vacancies, with an anticipated minimum of 10 more within the next 12 months. Note, however, that the following agencies have 3% @ 55 retirement formulas: Tracy (Wade Harper’s former employer as it’s my understanding he just retired), Benicia, Brentwood, Fairfield, Hercules, Martinez, Pittsburg, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek. Frankly, I think the city’s argument doesn’t hold water.
Regrettably, no alternative options such as signing bonuses were offered as incentive alternatives. (In 2005 the City offered lateral police officers a signing bonus of $2,000, $1,000 at time of appointment, $1,000 at end of probation). Ironically, the city did hire two lateral officers in July, both of whom were prior Antioch Officers who had taken positions with a neighboring jurisdiction. Only one remains with the City, the other is returning to his prior position elsewhere. Additionally, in November the City had five candidates scheduled for interviews. All five canceled or did not show. On December 13th, two lateral officer candidates were interviewed but neither are expected to continue on in the recruitment process.
Frankly, I think it’s our high crime rate that scared them away, as well as lack of confidence in the City’s financial stability, a deciding factor for several candidates who turned down conditional offers of employment.