Greed! So Called Pension Reformer Supervisor Shawn Nelson Spikes His Own Pension

You know, I really hate it when I’ve got a story and I have to sit on the darn thing until I can get all the facts confirmed. Such is the case with this one. I’ve had it since Saturday, but I didn’t want to run anything until I got confirmation out of the City of Fullerton. I just got my facts confirmed, so here you go.

Chip Hanlon has been making hay over at Red County over Harry Sidhu’s pledge Monday to not take a county pension if elected Supervisor, while failing to mention that he was a current participant in the pension plan for Anaheim employees. Yeah, that was kind of silly to fail to mention something that would surely blow back in his face. But the basic point Sidhu made still stands, he has pledged to not participate in the county pension plan. However, in Chip’s rush to judgement, he faild to check out what the deal was for Nelson in Fullerton.

When I wrote last week of Shawn Nelson’s pension plan selection, I did not realize that what I had learned was only the tip of an iceberg. As this iceberg has melted (probably the result of global climate change) Shawn Nelson’s true character has become apparent.

UPDATE: We finally got written response for clarification from county spokesman Howard Sutter regarding the question of what options Supervisor Nelson had related to his pension choices. Contrary to Nelson’s claim that he only had two choices related to pension plans, there is indeed a third option (as we’ve reported). An elected official may choose to opt-out of participation in OCERS and instead receive an additional contribution to their 401(a) plan,” Sutter told TheLiberalOC. Sutter also confirmed that Supervisor Bates chose to opt out of participation in OCERS and participate only in the county 401a defined contribution plan.

I think Travis Kiger over at the Fools From Fullerton’s Fringe blog described Shawn Nelson’s actions quite accurately in his defense of Nelson’s decision.

“When presented with two disparate retirement choices, what rational human being would pick the lesser? If a guy like Shawn Nelson wont do it, why would ANY public employee go for the option that is ultimately less generous…?”

While the knuckle-draggers on the Fringe refuse to accept that Shawn Nelson DID NOT HAVE TO SIGN UP FOR THE COUNTY PLAN, I think Travis inadvertently stumbled on to the real reason for Shawn Nelson opting-in to the county defined benefit pension plan, personal GREED and not public service.

R. Shawn Nelson, 4th District Supervisor

Shawn Nelson is already a member of the California Public Employee’s Retirement System (CalPERS) by virtue of his tenure as a Fullerton City Councilman. Every member of the Council is enrolled into the city’s CalPERS defined benefit pension plan. While not a lot of money gets contributed to the plan, according to the City of Fullerton, Shawn Nelson was enrolled in the city’s CalPERS pension plan on December 3, 2002 and has picked up 7.647 years of service credit. Due to a reciprocal arrangement between the Orange County plan (OCERS) and CalPERS, that service credit is automatically transferred over to Nelson. Should he be elected to a full term he will be entitled to receive pension benefits of 2.7% of his County Supervisor salary for every year of service. Let’s assume for the moment that he stays in office for the full two terms allowed a Supervisor, when he leaves the Board after 8.5 years of Service, he will receive approximately (revised estimate: 42.25) 44.5% of his Supervisor Salary as a lifetime pension at age 55. Based upon the current pay of a County Supervisor, that will amount to at least $64,000 a year, and this is on top of his government 401K. Had nelson selected the hybrid plan, he would have been eligible for only 25.35% of his pay. 

Back in 2008 while a member of the Fullerton City Council, Supervisor Nelson told Steven Greenhut, then an editorial writer with the OCRegister, that the City Council majority had allegedly voted in closed session to spike the pensions of city workers. As it turns out, there was no spiking going on and the employees were paying every penny of the proposed pension enhancements. But that didn’t matter to Nelson, it was pension spiking and that was wrong.

So how does Supervisor Nelson demonstrate his pension reform savvy during his first month on the job? He SPIKES HIS OWN PENSION.

In a response to a commentary I wrote about Supervisor Moorlach Demonizing Public Employees last week, Moorlach wrote on PublicCEO.com that I neglected to mention that Supervisors do not accrue vacation or sick time. This is the same tune he sang in 2007 and I addressed that claim when he made it back in 2007. But since Moorlach’s memory seems to be selective, I’ll repeat it now.

“Assume for a minute that Moorlach is right and the Supes do not accrue vacation and sick pay. At a minimum however, they certainly do not get their pay reduced if they miss a Board meeting, or go on vacation, or get ill and stay home, or go out and campaign for election.”

Moorlach also claimed last week that he was “not demonizing anyone.” Since I was so dumbfounded by his claim I asked Orange County Employee’s Association General Manager Nick Berardino to respond.

“Public employees throughout the state believe Supervisor Moorlach has used them as a political foot stool,” Berardino told me. “But if he is changing his views, or if he’s been misunderstood, we applaud it and hope his actions in the future demonstrate it.”

During his campaign Supervisor Nelson relentlessly attacked public employees, their unions, and their pensions. In a candidate forum he said;

“The programs with retirement should not have non-safety personnel retiring at the age of 55. It’s absurd. They should also not be guaranteed by the tax payer. They should be defined contribution (similar to a 401K) and retirement at least after 60, if not 65.”

So let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Both Nelson and Moorlach could have opted-out of the public employee retirement system and they did not. Both Nelson and Moorlach have spiked their own pensions. Both Nelson and Moorlach claim to be “Pension Reformers.” It sure looks to me like Shawn Nelson is going to fit right in with Moorlach. I call that Change you can’t believe in.

And while the FFFFers are right that Nelson never mentioned his own plans to take advantage of  county pension benefits for himself, that is not a defense of his own decision to participate in the county’s pension plan when it was public knowledge he could have opted out of the plan all together.  Clearly, a “do as I say and not as I do.”  Or as we like to say, IOKIYAR (It’s OK if you’re a Republican).

  3 comments for “Greed! So Called Pension Reformer Supervisor Shawn Nelson Spikes His Own Pension

  1. August 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    My apologies in tardiness for posting this on behalf of Chris; my PC decided to reboot in the middle of posting….Dan

  2. kee da peace
    August 18, 2010 at 9:45 am

    As usual, Chris, right on target. Shawn of the Dead would have been a fool not to take the best pension available because Republicans turn a blind eye when Republicans do something shameful. Until people wake up and get fed up, his ilk will continue to get elected and they will continue to rape the public coffees.

  3. Otherhand
    August 19, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Your calculated number is too high. Fullerton is 2% at 55, so that’s what he’d get for his Fullerton years. Based upon your figures it would be (7.647 x 2%) + (8.5 x 2.7%) = 38.244% of his highest salary.

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