Fourth District County Supervisor Shawn Nelson called us Thursday afternoon to offer his explanation for his opting into the county’s pension system, which he campaigned on reforming this Spring.
Shortly after taking office, Nelson said that he was presented with a number of forms to fill out associated with his new job and the benefits that go with it which will filed out with days to spare on the deadline for doing so. Among them, documents for his county pension. He opted for the full defined benefits plan that allows him to retire at 55 years old with 2.7% of his salary for every year he is an elected county official.
There are two plans at work here, which Chirs Prevatt detailed in his post on Thursday. As a candidate, Nelson had criticism for both of them — the 2.7 @ 55 plan which Nelson criticized because of the young age a county employee can retire, or the hybrid plan, which he said was flawed. There was a third option that Nelson seemed unaware of — not to participate in the county pension plan at all which is what Supervisor Pat Bates does.
“I was offered two choices,” said Nelson. “I was never told there was the option not to participate.” Nelson, who was on his way to youth football practice (and I’m happy to hear he still coaches despite his busy schedule), said he’d be contacted the county’s human resources department on Friday for an explanation and he’ll be contacting Supervisor Pat Bate’s office as well.
Nelson’s lack of knowlege of his options is curious because back in June Norberto Santana, Jr. wrote:
“Under a little-known — and not publicized — state law, each county supervisor has to actually decide to opt into the county’s pension system to get the same benefit most employees do.
I tried to find out Nelson’s pension plans on Monday, but he didn’t return several of my phone calls.”
Nelson’s explanation of “I didn’t know this was a option” doesn’t wash with us as Santana reported this story just after the election. If Nelson had bothered to return any of the Voice of OC’s phone calls, he would have known he could have opted out. We pointed out the story to him. “I’m sure there was a story about this but I didn’t see it,” he said.
“I cannot admonish any county employee for not taking advantage of a benefit that is available to them,” said Nelson. “But we do have some issues we need to deal with in regards to pension reform.”
As for opting out of the county’s pension plans, “I still don’t know if that was an option.”
We’ve offered Suprvisor Nelson the opportunity to give us a statement of explanation. Let’s see if he takes us up on this. Meanwhile, teach those kids to reachblock coach.