Watchdog group urges appeals courtroom to raise secrecy on disability pensions for presidency staff – Orange County Register

The most famous culprit could be Randy Adams, who received a pledge from the City of Bell to support his future disability retirement even before he became police chief.

The city of San Fernando said Police Sgt. William C. Bailey was indeed disabled and paved the way for his disability retirement. It wasn’t until years later that an audit by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System found that the City of Bailey had resigned for good cause – because of his educational background – and the disability claim was part of an agreement to get him to leave.

Kenneth Henderson was in retirement with the Santa Clara Police Department when he fell in love with a surveillance video taping bodybuilding in Las Vegas with his wife, Mandy, who was on handicap leave in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office the knees was forced.

Former Irvine Police Officer Gregory R. Allen retired in May 1996 following a back injury from a motorcycle accident. He ended up doing the exact same job – riding motorcycles – for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Invalidity pensions that have just retired are in great demand because some of them are tax-free. But they can spawn things like “boss sickness,” a joking name for the debilitating pain that occurs just before retirement. While such a scam costs the government millions of dollars annually, CalPERS, the most massive public pension system in the country, claims that the public has no right to know which retirees are on disability benefits and which are not.

Transparent California, a nonprofit monitoring group, sued CalPERS over this information in Sacramento County Superior Court. CalPERS argued that disclosing who has a retirement disability would violate state confidentiality laws and prevailed.

Transparent California has asked an appeals court to overturn that decision, arguing that identifying a pension with the words “disability” or “incapacity for work” does not jeopardize a person’s medical records, locates abuse, and is required by California public records laws.

Decision: Not public

In the controversial ruling, Sacramento Supreme Court Justice Laurie M. Earl stated that retirement for disability “is intended to alleviate the hardship that comes with dismissing an employee who is medically unfit to perform his duties fulfill”. To be eligible, members must demonstrate, on the basis of a competent medical assessment, that they are “fatally incapable of working due to permanent disability or an expected duration of at least 12 consecutive months, or physically or mentally incapable of performing their regular duties. “

Earl then relied on Government Code Section 20230 to conclude that a retiree’s disability status is confidential and does not need to be disclosed under the California Public Records Act.

The question, said the judge, is “more difficult than either party recognizes”. Determining which pensioners will retire is not just financial information, the judge said. This is tantamount to disclosing information provided by retirees and their doctors. The government code states that such information should remain confidential and “whether a particular retiree is receiving a service or disability pension … does not need to be disclosed by CalPERS,” the judge said.

CalPERS Retirement Types for Fiscal Year 2019

Interestingly, the judge found that the disclosure was not an unjustified invasion of privacy, but a violation of the government’s code of confidentiality.

CalPERS believes the judge came to the correct conclusion. “Forcing CalPERS to identify pension payments by type – service or disability – would unlawfully deprive members of the right to choose whether to disclose their confidential medical information,” spokeswoman Amy Morgan said via email. “We are confident that Judge Earl got it right and we are equally confident that the appeals court will approve.”

Data from CalPERS shows that more than 11% of retirees had pensions with “disability” or “incapacity for work”. The “Industry” category refers to workplace injuries.

“Our concerns about invalidity pension disclosure are irrelevant to fraud detection and could stigmatize people with mental illness,” said Gary M. Messing, a public safety lawyer who asked the appeals court to resolve Transparent’s case Dismiss California.

“When a cop has a post-traumatic stress injury and plays basketball or mows the lawn, what can you know?”

Transparency required

Transparent California’s request for an appeal intervention argues that the judge misunderstood it.

“For decades, virtually every effort to learn about the public pensions paid to retired public employees has been faced with the same waiver of state pension schemes and employee unions, that is, all information specific to an individual is confidential under California law. Says his letter. However, “every time the appeals court ruled in favor of transparency” under the California Public Records Act, and it has to do it here.

The judge ignored three “highly relevant” appeals court cases ruled in 2011, noting that the privacy of each pensioner record in the pension system is completely different from the public records the pension system itself creates to categorize and pay benefits , Transparent California argues.

Transparent California just wants to know what label CalPERS already covers – disability, industrial disability, or service – and that the data point is actually a public record that is routinely published by two dozen other California pension systems, including those in Orange and Los Angeles counties as well States like Oregon and New Jersey. After the Orange County Employees Retirement System made this information available to the Orange County Register in 2010 and 2012, the newspaper conducted investigations into retirement fraud by city police and fire fighters.

“Access to information about people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state,” argued Transparent California, citing the high ideals and language of open assembly and record-keeping laws.

“California lawmakers long ago determined that in balancing the interests of an individual’s privacy rights with the public’s right to hold their public officials and public servants accountable, the public’s right is paramount,” it said .

Robert Fellner, executive director of Transparent California, said the judge’s decision was manifestly unconstitutional. “The law says that if anything is unclear, you have to advocate disclosure,” he said. “She did just the opposite. And not because the data itself is secret, but because the data on which it is based comes from confidential files.

“If that decision persists, it can serve as an excuse to shield almost anything. ‘This misconduct report is based on information in confidential personnel files.’ It’s a slap in the face for the people of California. “

Updated on December 3rd. Using the example of Santa Clara and the status of CalPERS as the largest in the nation

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