Retirement Board Cuts Bustamante’s Pension

Carlos Bustamante (left), the former county public works executive who pleaded guilty to sex crimes involving female county employees, at meeting of the Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS) board in which board members were voting on whether to reduce his county pension. Sitting next to Bustamante is his lawyer, Edwin Brown.

Tracy Wood/Voice of OC

Carlos Bustamante (left), the former county public works executive who pleaded guilty to sex crimes involving female county employees, at meeting of the Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS) board in which board members were voting on whether to reduce his county pension. Sitting next to Bustamante is his lawyer, Edwin Brown.

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Carlos Bustamante, the former county public works executive who was convicted of sex crimes, had his pension cut Monday by a unanimous vote of the Orange County Employees Retirement System board.

The pension board members made their decision despite Bustamante’s arguments that his crimes weren’t serious felonies and contending past county executives had done far worse. Bustamante’s attorney, Edwin Brown, said he will appeal the board’s decision.

The board action drops Bustamante’s pension payments from $4,687.40 per month to $3,096.86 as of Nov. 1, according to OCERS staff. That cuts his yearly pension income from $56,248.80 to $37,162.32

“I pled guilty to those things because it was the best thing I could do at the time” financially and for other unspecified reasons, Bustamante told the OCERS board.

Once a high-level executive in OC Public Works, a Santa Ana City Councilman and rising star in local Republican politics, the 51-year-old Bustamante was sentenced in January to a year in a privately run Montebello jail and five years probation for multiple sex crimes against female county employees. He also must register as a sex offender.

He said he was released after serving four months and told the board his crimes were on the border between misdemeanors and felonies and will be “expunged” once his probation is complete. He said a previous member of the county executive ranks committed worse crimes and spent more time in prison, but would not name the person.

But board member Chris Prevatt said “if someone pleads guilty to a crime, as far as I’m concerned, they did it.”

Jennifer Muir Beuthin, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, told the board she experienced a “deep feeling of sickness hearing Mr. Bustamante downplay the significance (of his crimes) … because another official did something worse and served more time.”

Bustamante’s “crimes took place in the county when there was a culture that allowed these things to happen,” she said. “This culture will not be tolerated, no matter how well connected the perpetrator is.”

According to the OCERS staff report approved by the board, Bustamante will forfeit all benefits accrued between July 2, 2009, the date of his first felony, and Jan. 22 of this year, the date he was sentenced. He retired May 19, 2015 and pleaded guilty in December.

During Monday’s meeting, Supervisor Todd Spitzer urged the OCERS board to cut Bustamante’s pension and said the 2013 state law allowing such pension reductions was passed in reaction to government workers committing crimes involving their work and still collecting generous pensions.

Spitzer cited former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona as a prime example. Carona was released early from federal prison last year after serving four years and four months of a five-and-a-half-year sentence. He was convicted in 2009 of federal witness tampering following a corruption investigation. After his conviction, he still was eligible for a $195,120 annual pension.

Speaking of Bustamante, Spitzer told the OCERS board “while he was paying into the retirement system with this hand, he was groping women with this hand.” He reminded the board that county supervisors voted to pay two of Bustamante’s victims $500,000 each.

Brown, Bustamante’s lawyer, said OCERS staff was wrong to advise the board it could cut his pension, saying the state law didn’t apply because Bustamante wasn’t a state employee at the time of his conviction.

But OCERS lawyers said the law was changed in 2014 to cover those who belong to pension systems at the time of their convictions even if they have quit or been fired from their government jobs before then.

The law doesn’t apply to Carona and others who were convicted before the law went into effect.

Following the hearing, Brown told reporters Bustamante is “back working, making a living” and “picking the pieces up.” He declined to give specifics but said Bustamante’s new job is “in the private sector.”

You can contact Tracy Wood at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

  • Jacki Livingston

    I wonder how much of Spritzers money they will take, when he is finally convicted of racketeering.

  • astar2b

    Can he still run for a public office and get another big pension…?

  • John Claxton

    I forgot his time as a councilman. If the already belong to a retirement system I think they get a years service credit for every year he was on the council. That’s where the ripoff is. Can we get someone from OCERS to explain this?

  • John Claxton

    Ok I’m trying to wrap my head around this. Peace officers for the county can retire at age 50 or after 20 years of service. All or most other employees receive 2.7% at 55 years of age. 8 years of employment would give him 21.6% of high highest salary. Not only does $5k a month seem way too high for only 8 years, how is he eligeable to collect at 51 years old?

  • Guest

    The funniest thing in this all is that in 2012 then City Council Member Bustamante voted to prohibit people like himself from setting foot in tax payer funded public places, under threat of criminal prosecution.

    http://newsantaana.com/2012/05/22/santa-ana-city-council-expands-law-to-keep-sex-offenders-out-of-public-parks/

    Fortunately, sanity and the California Constitution prevailed, and now Registered Seks Offender Carlos Bustamante can at least take his children to the park.

  • Guest

    1. How do you serve 4 months on a one year sentence? I thought the standard was half time?

    2. How do you get to pick your jail, and then ‘pay to stay’? Because your safety may not be guaranteed in OC Jail? Does that not apply to every inmate? The name ‘John Chamberlain’ ring a bell?

    3. Keeping one’s pension before criminal activity was proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt and getting back contributions since then sounds fair to me… it is still absurdly high for the time served.

    4. Others may have committed other crimes, but sorry Charlie, even your soon to be misdemeanor and expunged conviction will make you a registered seks offender for the rest of your life. Meaning you are the ‘worst of the worst’, a modern day pariah. Or at the very least for the next 10 years in California with any kind of luck and a good case and legal team, but federally for the rest of your life.

    Certainly RSO Bustamante knows all of this as he has a lawyer who has already gotten him removed from the Megan’s Law website.

    5. There are 100,000 Californians on this list. Many for things much less worse than Bustamante’s crimes. One can only hope that he uses his resources to help himself and others from this lifetime ‘punishment’ that isn’t.

    • Jacki Livingston

      1. I suspect time served.
      2. If I recall right, nonviolent offenders can, Sean Penn and Robert Downey Jr did that.
      3. I was forced out for whistle blowing crimes, and I got a quarter of his pension and I did nothing wrong. Welcome to OC. Crime does pay.

  • Jacki Livingston

    I spent fourteen years at SSA carrying huge caseloads. I spent six years being retaliated against, because I reported criminal activity and fraud. I was forced to retire because of Complex PTSD from this unrelenting abuse. I get $737 per month to live on, and they have been working on my retirement for over a year on the medical side, which is still pending. But this sleazeball gets over three grand a month after assaulting employees, and all of the money he cost the county? This is unbelievable. Clearly, this is the stupidest local government on Earth. Ridiculous.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Check out this money. His “pension” is from 2000 and 2008? That’s barely 8 years! And look at the amount money he will collect annually for the rest of his life. This is called OC math.

    Bustamante abused his power. Guess what? All the appointees do. The top 1% of the elite club.

    This is why – the criminals have taken over public service in the OC.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Amen. And they are getting their idiot kids, nephews and lovers into prime jobs, so they can keep the crooked scam going.

      • LFOldTimer

        I find that deplorable too, Jacki.

        Especially in public safety where the entry educational standard is a high skool diploma or a GED.

        They only average about $230,000 a year in compensation.

        So the system is ripe for corruption. What dad wouldn’t want his kid to get a piece of that action without the expense or trouble of going to college? ha.

        The system sucks, Jack – unless one happens to be a player – which 85% of us aren’t.

        I feel very sorry for your circumstances, btw. My heart goes out to ya.

        • Jacki Livingston

          It gets worse. They have blackballed me, and give me such a horrific reference, that I cannot get even a part time job, anywhere. They have used their pull to block me from participating in job training programs from the state. I have a Bachelor’s Degree, a year of law school, and have been working since I was 13. I work hard, obeyed the law, cared about my clients and I did what the ethics and rules of my profession demanded. I cared, not just about myself, but my clients and the taxpayers. I tried to stop fraud and waste. The taxpayers deserve ultimate respect. They are our employers, above politicians and scummy nepotistic sleazeballs. They deserve a hard day’s work for a fair, honest wage. I took that seriously. I have a stack of awards and letters from clients. Do you think they would change the referral process, and give me such a bad reference and block me, if I were just a disgruntled employee? No. I messed with their organized crime money, and now, with SacBee and others printing all the proof? Yeah, the proof is there. I still cannot get work. All I want is a job. I don’t care, minimum wage. I don’t want welfare. I want to work. But they are angry with me for being honest. If anyone out there wants a hard worker, who is honest, let me know. But…yeah, call up HR for the county, see what reference they give. I had one employer tell me that he had gotten better job references for violent felons. No one can stop them.

    • LFOldTimer

      I said it before and I’ll say it again…..

      The OC County executive ranks is being run under rules that appear to be similar to what you might find in the “Skull & Bones” secret society at Yale U.

      Much of it is unwritten but taken for granted by the secret society members.

      All of them take care of their own. Blood brothers and sisters.

      $37,000 lifetime pension for 8 years of service is absurd. $56,000 is despicable.

      No wonder the public pension systems are blowing up across America.

  • David Zenger

    Okay, so the usual suspects showed up to grandstand, but whatever happened to the good folks who let Busty run loose: Bill Campbell, Tom Mauk, and Carl Crown?

    Only Jess Carbajal was punished.

  • Bill Colver

    Carlos, take what you got and move along. Better yet, be a good conservative and take responsibility for your actions.

    Something your party demands of others but never of its own.

  • Paul Lucas

    HES ONLY SERVED 4 MONTHS? Hey Todd, how about getting that 25k back from Jordan brandman for his plagiarized report to Tom Daly?

  • LFOldTimer

    Oh, so this article explained it thoroughly, unlike the last one.

    Carona, etc.. were convicted before said law that allowed the pension board to sink it’s teeth into the pensions of those convicted of serious felonies. So Mikey skated. Carlos wasn’t so lucky, although his attorney will apparently appeal the ruling.

    So apparently “Equality Under the Law” has managed to survive another day ….. at least in this case.

    God bless America. I’m relieved.