El Dorado County has a 16-member group of individuals with one thing in common. They retired from county employment or county service with pensions of more than $100,000 a year.
Three were elected officials — former sheriff Jeff Neves, former assessor Tim Holcomb and former surveyor Dan Russell. Neves’s retirement package tops the chart at $189,816. Holcomb’s is $137,251 and Russell’s is $116,920.
Elected county Auditor-Controller Joe Harn said these and retirement programs for other former employees cost the county more than it can afford.
“Obviously, your board should work toward a two-tiered system so that employees hired in the future are promised dramatically lower retirement benefits,” Harn wrote in a letter to the Board of Supervisors last December. The letter was part of a press release sent out this week from Harn’s office that included the list of those receiving “in excess of $100,000 annually.” Harn noted that the data were received from the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) in August.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department produced seven of the 16 high-end pensioners. Fred Kollar, who was appointed interim sheriff after Neves retired early, left county employment with a $184,990 annual benefit. Former jail supervisor Robert Altmeyer retired with $141,286 a year. William Whealton, Steven Davis and Kevin House collect between $130,000 and $136,000 apiece. Martin J. Hackett, currently head of the Joint Powers Authority that operates the county’s Emergency Ambulance Services, left the Sheriff’s Department with an annual retirement package of $118,922.
Former Chief Administrative Officer and director of Public Health Gayle Erbe-Hamlin tops the non-Sheriff’s Department list of retiree benefits with $148,153, while one of her predecessors, Michael B. Hanford, receives $125,365. Retired director of Community and Human Services John P. Litwinovich left county service with a pension of $138,312. Litwinovich’s successor Douglas Nowka holds the lowest position on the list at $103,917.
Longtime sheriff and district attorney’s office investigators Robert Brown and David Koupal retired at $125,772 and $104,443, respectively. Thirty-four-year veteran of the Department of Transportation Keith Harvey is on the books at an annual rate of $107,854.
With few exceptions the high pensions are the combined result of many years, over three decades in some cases, of public employment and top positions in county management.
“The county’s unfunded obligation to its retirees has become a major problem and it is an issue that the public is interested in,” Harn wrote in a Sept. 2 update announcing release of the list of 16. “In 1999 and 2000, the Board of Supervisors changed its contract with CalPERS. The changes provided significant increase in retirement benefits to employees and dramatically increased the county’s unfunded obligation to CalPERS. The county’s unfunded obligation to CalPERS is $264 million according to the latest actuarial report available.”