At a recent discussion of the state of Contra Costa County finances and pension liability payments, Supervisor Susan Bonilla, a Democrat primary candidate for the 11th Assembly District, made it clear that she wanted the option of using “funds promised for reducing the county’s unfunded post-retirement benefits, or OPEB, liability to help fund operations of key County departments.” There is no doubt that a majority of Bonilla’s colleagues, especially Mary Piepho and John Gioia, are silently hoping for any excuse to break the board’s recent promise of paying down pension liability.
The nuclear option of raiding the OPEB set-aside as a source of cash for day-to-day operations(!) of the Fire Department or Probation services is a financial Rubicon the BOS should not cross without thinking seriously about the consequences of reneging on its primary constitutional fiduciary obligation and promise to taxpayers to reduce Contra Costa’s retiree health care obligations. Yet such another cave-in to powerful union interests would break any remaining bond county taxpayers have with the machine politics in Martinez where the governing class including union leaders completely lord it over the governed and any fig leaf of fiscal sanity.
This critical state of affairs comes at a time when the Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association (CCCERA), has become California’s poster child for its embarrassing policies that encourage pension spiking. CCCERA has just refused to change policies that allow a fire chief making $185,000 per year to boost his lifetime pension at the age of 50 to $241,000. Dan Borenstein of the times quotes Bob Palmer, interim executive director of California’s Retirement Systems, as marking CCCERA’s practices are “really egregious…an embarrassment…bad public policy.”
Instead of putting a stop to this scam, that the County Supervisors clearly indicate it cannot afford, CCCERA voted to allow 4,000 current retirees since 1997 and an additional 11,500 current employees to continue to receive outrageous pensions spiked with a multitude of ILLEGAL add-ons.
Of course, the County must fund essential services as best it can. But it’s also time for the Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association, CCCERA, as the financial mouthpiece of its membership, to step up to the plate.
County employees must finally have some skin in the game or be exposed as the comical criminal Blue Meanie from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, that consumes everything in sight, and ultimately itself. No jobs, no services, no pensions.
Simply put, CCCERA has become an enemy of the people. It has become a predatory class feeding off the commonwealth of the citizens of Contra Costa County. The Board of Supervisors and State legislative elites, who rely on CCCERA membership support for reelection term after term, have also lost any credibility, failing on its promises to perform its legal financial due diligence for the sake of ever more concessions to public employee unions forcing taxpayers to once again pick up such an exorbitant tab.
This must stop.
If the lawmakers, the BOS, and the CCCERA don’t step up, taxpayer revolt and bankruptcy leading to a complete meltdown of county government are rapidly becoming the more probable alternatives.
Since the sitting Supervisors—including one running for the legislature, and another supervisor hopeful—are counting on union support for their campaigns, a broad-based citizen action committee must be formed to sue CCCERA to comply with much needed reforms. CCCERA is NOT OWED something illegal. It’s OWN COUNSEL says CCCERA is in violation of state appeals court decisions concerning pension spiking. CCCERA must finally have some skin in the game and face a court ruling.