Watchdog – Council should end furloughs for Antioch City staff
The Antioch City Council is busily debating how to increase revenues via a sales tax, parcel tax, a business license tax or a combination of taxes. City staff has been asked to determine the cost of returning to the pre-recession level of 126 sworn officers or a more optimal level of 144 officers and eliminating furlough days, which apply to all city employees except sworn police officers, as Concord did last week.
Apparently Concord was aware of the recent legislative analyst’s report stating that the state employee furlough policy, instituted under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been found to be fiscally unsound. The reason – state employees were using furlough days instead of vacation/annual leave days and now the state will have to pay them $3 billion for unused time off when they retire which is more than it would have paid if they hadn’t been furloughed at all.
Last September I asked Dawn Merchant, Antioch’s Finance Director, about city policy in regard to vacation, sick and comp time. She replied that vacation, sick and comp time roll over from year to year based upon the maximum accruals allowed by the Memorandum of Understanding for each bargaining unit. Vacation and comp time are paid to employees when they leave. Sick leave is only paid out to those employees with more than 10 years of service and is capped at 40% of total hours for a maximum of 20 hours. (The payouts are not used in calculating pension benefits.) Perhaps it’s time now for Antioch to take a look at how furlough days are impacting retirement payouts. Council should have that information before deciding decides whether to retain or eliminate them.
Speaking of poor policy decisions, four of the state’s 24 largest independent municipal retirement systems decided to send board members in May to the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems to be held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort which has 5 swimming pools. However, after unfavorable publicity by California Watch, several Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association (CCCERA) board members decided to cancel. When I called Monday to get a final head count I was told to leave a voice mail message on Marilyn’s phone line which I did but when I did not get a return call by the next day I called back was told Marilyn would not be in until Thursday and no one else could answer my question. Perhaps CCCERA needs to be reminded that access to information concerning the conduct of the peoples business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in the state and stalling the release of the
information is a disservice to the people. As of Thursday, March 21, I had not yet received a call back from Marilyn.
Also note, attorneys for the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) members are attempting to overturn pension reform initiatives approved by voters in San Diego (67%) and San Jose (70%) by filing complaints that officials failed to bargain in good faith on pension issues with unions representing city employees. Additionally, just this week federal officials charged Federico Buenrostro Jr, CEO of CalPERS from 2002-2008 and Alfred Villalobos, a former CalPERS board member and former vice mayor of Los Angeles with fraud for fabricating documents with a fake CalPERS logo to trick investment firm Apollo Global Mgt. into paying fees to Villalobos’ firms for helping sell securities.