July 19, 2007

"There needs to be some accountability."

I love the last line of this article which is a quote from the pension board member re the County union employees. Actually she has it backwards (like most politicians). The accountability needs to run FROM the politicians and the county union members to the taxpaying public. Remember our name here is the Lakewood ACCOUNTABILITY Action Group. Accountability is literally our middle name!!

Fresno Co. pension confusion compounded
Instead of getting refunds, some Fresno Co. employees may have to pay more.
By Brad Branan / The Fresno Bee
07/19/07 04:24:11

About 5,000 current and former Fresno County employees expecting refunds from a retirement fund may have to make payments instead.

The possible change in direction, discussed Wednesday by the county Board of Retirement, came after an actuarial firm found yet another miscalculation in how employee contributions were determined.

The latest report drew anger and disbelief from county employees.

"Employee morale is at an all-time low," county employee Jon Endara told the board.

In February, plan administrator Roberto Peña said thousands of current and former employees could expect refunds of roughly $1,000 each because an audit found that they had been paying too much for cost-of-living increases.

That estimate was based on a review by The Segal Company of San Francisco.

On Wednesday, however, Segal officials told the board that after further review, they found that about 5,200 employees actually paid too little for cost-of-living increases -- $1.1 million less than they should have.

The new finding was based on a review of data not covered in the first audit of the $2.5 billion pension fund, Peña said.

But some employees still could get a refund.

About 1,000 current and former public safety employees were found to have paid too much into the plan -- a total of $4.4 million, said Paul Angelo, a Segal vice president.

Officials are still crunching the numbers. The board Wednesday asked a consulting firm to figure out exactly how much employees might be asked to repay -- or receive in refunds. A decision could come during the board's Aug. 15 meeting.

The confusion left board members scratching their heads.

"This is totally unacceptable," said board member Alan Cade. "There's no excuse for this."

Board members and Peña on Wednesday said they would consider conducting more audits -- possibly as often as every three years -- to better detect such problems. The audit that turned up the original rate mistake was the plan's first in 50 years, Peña said.

Employees and union representatives Wednesday told board members that they should stick to the original plan of issuing refunds.

"You've told them they're going to get refunds," Endara said.

Henry Lopez, a county program supervisor, questioned the figures, saying employees are due a refund.

"We're not talking about a world where one plus one equals two. We're talking about actuaries," he said. "You can arrive at any number you want."

But Angelo defended the new rate estimates. He said the actuary who made the mistakes -- Ira Summer of Public Pension Professionals -- has acknowledged that he incorrectly calculated the cost-of-living adjustment factor for one fiscal year. Summer agreed with the new calculation by Segal's actuaries, Angelo said.

Summer did not return phone messages left Wednesday at his Oakland office.

The conflicting information from the actuaries has left pensioners frustrated, said retirement board member Stephanie Savrnoch.

"Our members don't have confidence in what they're being told," she said. "There needs to be some accountability."

The reporter can be reached at bbranan@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6679.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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