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Editorial: Gatto bill is a little late

September 12, 2010

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s plans to hold a public hearing in Glendale on his proposed bill that would limit the exposure of cities to former employees’ bloated pension plans may sound like a good form of populist relief, but there is little time for that show now.

By now, most people know that former Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams’ salary more than doubled to $471,000 when he left last year for the same job in Bell. When that happened, Glendale’s obligation to his pension also skyrocketed, by an additional $40,000 a year, according to an estimate from the city manager’s office.

Glendale wasn’t the only one left on the hook. Ventura and Simi Valley, where Adams also worked, were left holding the pension bag to the tune of tens of thousands of additional dollars owed to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as CalPERS.

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Gatto’s bill would have forced cities to cover the cost of an employee's pension if it's tied to a pay raise of more than 15%. Seems fair enough, but a number of cities and government coalitions took issue with the 15% mark, arguing that it would be unfair to those stellar employees who make the jump from small-town administration to the big leagues.

The bill never made it to a vote, excluded from the other post-Bell reform measures that were passed by the Legislature. Gatto said he held it back to allow time to address the 15% issue and hold a public hearing, but in the meantime, the clock is ticking on Glendale’s increased potential contribution to CalPERS.

There are myriad investigations by county and state officials into the legality of Adams’ compensation boom, but we can’t sit around and wait for those to render positive outcomes. The issues surrounding Gatto’s bill seem relatively easy enough to work through. And while a public forum in Glendale would produce quite the show, we’re sure city officials on the hook would be willing to forgo it and just get the bill passed.

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