Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

Incoming Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos spiked his pension while serving as the top bureaucrat in Phoenix, allowing him to split more than $200,000 in taxpayer funds annually with his ex-wife, the Arizona Republic reported this week.

Just six weeks ago Cavazos was asked to end the pension spiking practice for other employees, the Republic reported. Cavazos, who becomes Santa Ana’s city manager in October, significantly increased his pension payout from Phoenix by factoring in unused time off and other perks, including 2,194 hours of sick leave, according to the Republic.

The new Santa Ana city manager already comes to town with controversy about his compensation package, valued at more than $500,000 annually, which includes housing allowance, health and other benefits. The pay makes him one of the most highly compensated city managers in the state.

Altogether, Cavazos and his ex-wife will collect nearly $800,000 annually from taxpayers.

From the Republic story:

Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos can boost his pension when he retires next month by cashing in City Council-approved perks and roughly $200,000 of unused sick leave, a practice known as “pension spiking” that he was asked to end just six weeks ago, records obtained by The Arizona Republic and 12 News show.

Cavazos and city officials, under his directive, refuse to disclose the total value of his pension package, citing a sealed divorce agreement with his ex-wife, Julie Ann, who will receive part of his pension benefits. A city spokeswoman said Tuesday that that amount will be disclosed when Cavazos retires Oct. 16.

Cavazos declined to be interviewed in depth about his pension, but he did discuss his overall compensation and wrote in a response to Republic Media, which owns 12 News and The Arizona Republic, that his annual pension from the City of Phoenix Employees’ Retirement Systems will be $117,000 to $127,000. He stated that the figure is based “substantially” on the “below market” salary he was paid before getting a raise of nearly 33 percent last year.

He noted that he, like other city employees, made financial concessions to help the city’s budget.

Cavazos would not disclose how much of his additional pension payments his ex-wife would receive under their divorce settlement. Efforts to reach her were unsuccessful.

The Republic estimates that the total annual city pension for Cavazos and his ex-wife will be at least $220,000 based on a review of his contract, other public records and an interview with Jackie Temple, the city retirement program’s interim administrator.

However, that pension amount could rise depending on how much unused sick leave Cavazos trades in to increase his credited length of city service, one of two key factors in determining the annual amount of a public pension.

Cavazos indicated in a response to news media questions that he plans to trade in sick leave, but he did not disclose how many hours he will exchange to increase his pension.

Cavazos also will be able to significantly increase his final compensation, the other key factor in calculating an annual pension, because of details written into his contract such as being able to cash unused sick leave and the council-approved retroactive pay raise.

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