It is now safe to say that newly elected Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is getting hit from all sides regarding his decision to take a pension after focusing his primary campaign on pension reform.

Voice of OC was the first to ask Nelson whether he would opt for a pension after taking office in June. He never gave us an answer.

But the Liberal OC uncovered his answer last week. Nelson not only chose to take a pension, but chose the option that is most costly to the county.

This revelation caused even those he could normally count on for support, namely Red County, to say WTF?

And now the Register’s editorial board has spoken. And it had some harsh words:

Mr. Nelson touted the need to move to a 401(k), private sector-style retirement structure for county workers. He also promised to support the supervisors’ lawsuit, now on appeal, against a retroactive boost in pension benefits in 2001.

When put to the test in his first days in office, Mr. Nelson compromised his purported principles for self-interest when he elected, as a new hire, to take the most lucrative pension program the county offers rather than the other option, which includes a voluntary 401(k)-style program. His decision is a missed political opportunity to show taxpayers in the county that he is serious about pension reform. He could have made a symbolic statement by rejecting the platinum plan, which puts taxpayers on the hook. He did the opposite. …

Unfortunately most local elected officials fail to match their rhetoric with their actions when it comes to pension reform. To maintain credibility on this issue, Supervisor Nelson has some explaining to do.

Actually, Nelson has issued various explanations behind his choice, including that he did it on accident.

But he continues to avoid the fact that he didn’t have to take a pension. Under state law, an elected official has to decide to opt into the local pension system. But they do not have to accept a pension.

That’s exactly what Supervisor Pat Bates when she took office in 2006. She declined a pension.

This week, Nelson commented on the flack he’s getting at the supervisors meeting, exhibiting a deft touch as he explained why he selected to opt into the pension system and took the most lucrative benefit available.

“It is mandatory that you participate in the plan if you wish to have any plan,” Nelson said from the dais.

The plan sure is working for Nelson.

The Liberal OC noted this week that he will actually get to spike his Fullerton City Council pension by opting into the county system because the county system will count his eight years as a councilman under his new six-figure salary.


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