Supervisors Set to Pay Into Their Own Pension Plans

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At least two of the three Orange County supervisors who receive pensions are now set to voluntarily pay their employee shares of pension costs, according to a new policy quietly adopted this week.

The move came amid a yearslong battle over retirement benefits at the county, in which labor groups have strongly criticized supervisors for wanting county workers to pay their full employee shares while not doing so themselves.

While Supervisor John Moorlach has said that he plans to make the contribution, it wasn’t clear Friday whether Supervisors Janet Nguyen and Todd Spitzer will also.

The resolution states that “certain members” of the board have requested it.  County spokesman Howard Sutter said Friday that he didn’t know who they are.

The new policy, first reported by The Orange County Register, was approved without discussion Monday as part of the county’s budget resolutions for the new fiscal year.

Sutter said that staff didn’t yet know how much supervisors will have deducted from their paychecks for their employee shares. He also didn’t have figures on what percent of total pension costs supervisors would be paying.

Meanwhile, county records indicate that the employee share last year was about $14,500 for Nguyen and $16,900 for Moorlach. Figures weren’t available for Spitzer, because he took office just this year.

While supervisors may opt for paying their employee shares, their new contributions aren’t etched in stone.

The policy allows individual supervisors to opt out of payments and thus have the county pay their employee shares.

The policy states that deductions from their paychecks are to “continue until the particular requesting Supervisor requests that such deductions terminate or their term expires.”

The three supervisors have been paying a “reverse pick-up” into their pensions, according to staff, which ranges from about 6.9 percent of salary to about 10 percent.

Moorlach said in his weekly update that his reverse pickup amounts to $14,260 annually.

Sutter also said staff interprets the resolution as still requiring a further request from individual supervisors in order for the deductions to take place.

The approved resolution, meanwhile, states that certain board members “have requested that the County deduct from wages” to pay their employee shares and that “the board hereby grants the request … with such deductions to commence as soon as administratively practicable.”

Chairman Shawn Nelson and Vice Chairwoman Pat Bates don’t receive pensions.

Clarification: This story has been updated to include staff’s interpretation of the resolution and to clarify whether Spitzer and Nguyen have requested the deductions.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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