Former Bell officials’ pensions reduced even further

Having already dramatically cut the pensions of Bell’s two former top officials, the state retirement system has sliced their retirement checks further, ruling they are not entitled to five years’ worth of credit they bought for themselves with city funds.

Robert Rizzo, Bell’s former chief administrative officer, and Angela Spaccia, the former assistant chief administrative officer, were sent letters by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System on June 6, notifying them of the decision.

According to state law, workers can buy as many as five years’ additional credit toward their pensions. But in Rizzo’s and Spaccia’s cases, the city paid for the credit, which is not allowed under state law.

In addition, the letters said, CalPERS found no evidence that the Bell City Council had approved making payments.

Rizzo and Spaccia are among eight former Bell officials charged with felony public corruption.

James Spertus, Rizzo’s attorney, said CalPERS had already cut his client’s pension, so it was not crediting him for his years in Bell, where he was appointed top administrator in 1993.

“I don’t believe that CalPERS is taking a position that’s defensible by any stretch of facts,” Spertus said, because wrongdoing was not alleged until more than a decade later.

Spertus said he understood that Rizzo had properly purchased the extra years of credit, “but if not, it will be part of the factual resolution of the CalPERS issues.”

Before the Bell scandal broke in the summer of 2010, Rizzo could have expected an annual retirement check of about $650,000, which would have made him the highest-paid pensioner in the state’s largest public retirement system, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year more from Bell’s supplementary retirement program.

But his pension has now been reduced to about $50,000 a year.

Spaccia could have expected a pension of $250,000 annually from CalPERS, along with a huge bump from the Bell program. As it stands, she will now receive a pension of about $34,000.