Moorlach – Silence of the Lamb?

“After conducting a diligent search for responsive records, we have been unable to locate in the possession of the County “a record of Supervisor Moorlach’s pension status.” – Howard Sutter, Manager, CEO Community/Media Relations (2-4-2011).

OC Supervisor John Moorlach - Photo: Chris Prevatt

Supervisor John M. W. Moorlach has also been a vocal critic of public employee defined benefit plans, even though he has participated in this plan since he was appointed to the Board of Supervisors back in 1995. Moorlach is also responsible for the failed lawsuit brought against the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s (AOCDS) to overturn the retroactive portion of their current pension benefit because he believes it to be unconstitutional. Last month, the California 2nd District Court of Appeals sided with the trial court judge who through out the lawsuit. The Board is scheduled to discuss whether to appeal that decision to the California Supreme Court on Tuesday.

When Moorlach first proposed challenging the legality of the retroactive portion of the AOCDS benefits he was asked why he was participating in the defined benefit pension plan offered to general county employees. At that time, and throughout the debate, Moorlach has said that he “did not have a choice whether to participate” and that he had “tried to opt out of the plan and was told that he could not.”

When I learned back in September that the Orange County Employee’s Retirement System had reached a conclusion related to Supervisor Nelson’s options that suggested Moorlach could now opt-out of the system, I asked “If Nelson can opt-out of pension in November, what will Moorlach do?” Since I hadn’t heard back from Supervisor Moorlach on my question, I asked on January 6th if it was “Time for Moorlach to put his pension where his mouth is?” That time, I sent the question directly to Moorlach’s district office to make sure he got the question and was given the opportunity to respond.

After having heard nothing for a few days I began to think that the problem getting a response was that it was me asking the question. In order to find out if that was the case, my colleague Dan Chmielewski submitted the following public records request to the County’s Public Information Officer Howard Sutter on January 11th.

Howard –

I’d like to know if Supervisor Moorlach is still enrolled in the county’s pension plan or if he opted out of it prior to his swearing in for his second term. 

Can you please provide me with a record of Supervisor Moorlach’s pension status?


Dan Chmielewski

Seems like a simple question to me, as well as one that should be easily answered. Ten days later Dan got the following response in a letter from Sutter.

Dan responded to Sutter with a quick email stating the obvious:

Howard –

You need two more weeks to tell me if Supervisor Moorlach opted out of the pension?  Seriously?  Couldn’t you just pick up the phone and ask him?

Flash forward two weeks to this February 4, 2011 letter from Sutter:

R. Shawn Nelson, 4th District Supervisor

On the agenda for Tuesday’s Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting is item number 45 to direct staff to make changes to the Elected Officials 401(a) Alternative Retirement (defined contribution) plan. Among the changes is to tie the contribution amounts to Social Security rates and identify necessary steps to require that all future elected county officials only have the option to participate in that plan. The discussion is the result of a proposal introduced by Supervisor Shawn Nelson. During the special election to fill the vacancy left by former Supervisor Chris Norby when he moved to the Sate Assembly, Nelson was an outspoken critic of defined benefit pension plans that current county workers participate in. Nelson was labeled a hypocrite for initially selecting the most generous defined benefit pension option rather than the 401(a) plan when he took office. Ultimately, do to a technicality, Nelson was able to change his selection to the 401(a) plan, but his confusion about what he could and could not do related to his pension selection brought this discussion forward.

One of the clarifications that came out of this is that a county elected official must choose whether or not to participate in the defined pension plan during their first 30 days after taking their oath of office. That option occurs at the beginning of each term of office. Further, an official who chooses to participate in a defined benefit plan can opt out of their participation in that plan within 60 days of the end of their term.

As you can see, it is not like Supervisor Moorlach doesn’t know we’re asking what his plans are regarding his county pension. Further, Dan has sent his request directly to the Supervisor’s district office to the attention of his Chief of Staff Rick Francis.  All we’ve heard back since we initially raised the question has been silence.

As we begin the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit/Cat it occurred to me to look up what Lunar year Supervisor Moorlach was born in. Moorlach was born on December 21, 1955, in the Year of the Sheep. I was born in the Year of the Ox which probably explains my stubborn determination to get an answer to this simple question out of Moorlach.

The year of the Sheep sure seems to explain the “Silence of the Lamb.” Happy Lunar New Year.

  7 comments for “Moorlach – Silence of the Lamb?

  1. Keep up the pressure!
    February 7, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Moorlach’s lack of response to the Liberal OC is probably a very likely non-verbal communication that Supervisor Moorlach remains a full-time ACTIVE MEMBER of OCERS!

    Since Moorlach is NEVER SILENT on anything, one can assume that he would have had a huge media field day with this had he done anything at all to change his membership in OCERS.

    Too bad that JMWM can’t own up to why he chooses to remain an active member of the defined benefit pension plan — rather than having to dance around the issue like a typical politician!

  2. RHackett
    February 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Never believe anything till it’s been officially denied.

    Moorlach is a hypocrite, plain and simple.

  3. February 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    we have a call into the OCERS office; but what do you think the answer will be?

    • February 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      the answer fromOCERS; his pension status is confidential

  4. His silence is "deafening"
    February 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    So, it is up to Supervisor Moorlach himself to respond about his status with OCERS.

  5. Robin
    February 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    He is making a big deal about a pension problem that doesn’t exist. We pay 100 percent into our pensions for 2.7. The 1.62 portion is paid by the employee and the county and its not very much. I pay total over 800 a month for both. By cutting the 2.7 the county saves zero and by law they still have to give you a pension of 1.62 unless they change the state constitution-good luck on that! OCERS is one of the top pension funds in the country and has a 30 billion dollar surplus and that is in a down stock market. It brings in each month way more then it pays out. The unfunded liability comes if everybody worked 30 years and retired, only 10 percent make a 30 year career. They have to fund for 100 percent retiring, which will never happen. Remember Moorloch is a politician and his term is up in three years. He wants to move uptown as a pension slayer and live in beautiful Sacramento!

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