Pension committee considers a 'tough nut'

An "out of control" financial situation. An "ugly situation."

A city that's "handcuffed." Not just a "Costa Mesa problem."


Those were a few of the words used to describe the city's employee pension program through the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, during the inaugural session of the Pension Oversight Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

Eight of the nine newly appointed committee members, as well as Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, attended the meeting in a City Hall conference room. Bobby Young, the city's finance and information technology director, was also present and is expected to attend and help guide the meetings.


Jeff Arthur, a retired financial professional and administrator with the Coast Community College District, was chosen to chair the committee. Ralph Taboada, a semi-retired accounting professional, was chosen as vice chairman.

"I'm a PERS retiree ... and I'm interested in preserving PERS, but at the same time know that it's a tough nut," Arthur said.

He added that he seeks to understand the problem, communicate it to the community and find solutions.

"I don't think it's going to be easy," Arthur said. "It's not an easy problem."


The committee will meet from roughly 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at City Hall for its first month, after which time its meeting schedule is subject to change.

"We've got a problem, and there are people that are just skating over this stuff," Righeimer said. "So this group needs to know more than anybody else because we're gonna need recommendations to the state or to other cities of what we think it's gonna take to get this thing straightened out. And none of the answers are pretty."

In February the council approved Mensinger's request to create the standing committee. He had asked for 12 members, including three from the employee associations. City CEO Tom Hatch later advised against having employees present, however, as he felt it would present risks with the state labor law.

Part-time city staff help for the committee, for an estimated annual cost of $20,000, is also planned.

Mensinger said the board is not made up of "everybody from the same party or same ideology."

He said he hoped the members could "look at the issue and speak as one and share ideas like a jury board, and come out of deliberations with ideas that aren't political in terms of an ideology, but are inherently going to have a basis of fact, a basis of ideas."