Glendale seeking to block Adams' pension benefits

Glendale has joined two other cities in trying to block what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional pension payments for Randy Adams, whose lucrative stint as police chief of Bell continues to have far-reaching consequences via the state's complicated employee retirement system.

Adams, who worked for the police departments in Simi Valley and Ventura before coming to Glendale, was forced to step down last week as police chief of Bell amid growing outcry over his $457,000 salary in a relatively poor city of about 40,000 people.

City officials at first believed that the $457,000 salary Adams received in Bell would not increase the money they paid to the state employee retirement system, or CalPERS, for his five years in Glendale. But a review by Glendale's state pension actuary determined that Adams' brief stint in Bell will cost Glendale taxpayers between $500,000 and $600,000 in additional benefits, or about $40,000 a year for the length of his retirement.

City officials in Simi Valley and Ventura also said they expect to take a substantial hit.

Simi Valley City Manager Mike Sedell said he believes his city will be on the hook for between $35,000 and $40,000 more each year than it would have if Adams had retired from Glendale, where he earned roughly $215,000 a year.

Ventura City Manager Rick Cole said he thinks his city will be forced to pay even more because Adams worked there for roughly 20 years. Cole declined to put a dollar figure on the expected cost.

All three officials said they have yet to get a detailed picture from CalPERS on the impact of Adams' revised retirement costs.

Sedell, the city manager at Simi Valley, said cities set aside retirement money for each qualified employee based on CalPERS formulas for how much the person is expected to receive in retirement benefits. The formulas determine how much money will come from CalPERS investments and how much is required from employers throughout the worker's career.

The final retirement payout is based on the year of highest earnings. When those earnings jump at the end of a career, it renders the prior retirement payouts short of what is needed.

"If that highest-year pay exceeds what PERS assumes, it can be a big cost bite," said Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird.

On Monday, Starbird sent a letter to California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, asking him to investigate the matter.

"We actively support and encourage your seeking a full investigation as to not only the circumstances surrounding the payment of the significant salary, which now adds to the financial obligations of Glendale, but whether there is any legal basis to set aside the salary or a portion of the benefit based thereon," Starbird wrote in the letter to Brown.

Ventura and Simi Valley joined the request.

"This is so patently an abuse of the retirement system that our cities are moving quickly to make sure it is an abuse that does not burden our cities or our budgets," Cole said.

In his 20 years in Ventura, Adams rose to the rank of assistant chief, before leaving to become police chief in Simi Valley.

He then came to Glendale, during which time he applied for the appointment to interim Orange County sheriff. After being eliminated from consideration there, he soon announced his intent to retire, but then Bell made an offer that at the time he declined to disclose.

A Los Angeles Times investigation earlier this month revealed his salary to be $457,000.

Adams, along with Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, resigned last week as outcry grew over their salaries. Rizzo was earning nearly $800,000 a year.

Adams' estimated pension payout is about $400,000 — or roughly double what he would have received before spending a year in Bell, CalPERS spokesman Edward Fong said.

It could take up to two weeks for the results of CalPERS' own probe into whether the salary and resulting pension hike fall within state regulations, Fong added.

"We want what's fair for retirees and for taxpayers," Cole said. "This is an outrageous example of unfairness, and I think all three cities are inclined to ensure that fairness prevails in the end. We will not allow abuses elsewhere to impact our taxpayers here."

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