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“It wasn’t explained to us that we would be paying so much in the future, or that some people would be making more in retirement than when they were working,” Jimenez said. Johanson signed a trust agreement with Union Bank to manage the assets of El Monte’s supplemental pension plan.The plan was overseen by Public Agency Retirement Services of Newport Beach.
Because so many employees have been able to retire early on lucrative terms, El Monte has more than twice as many retirees drawing pensions as it does active employees, Cal PERS documents show.On top of that, retired El Monte employees receive annual cost of living increases at the high end of what Cal PERS allows: up to 4% for police retirees and 5% for civilians, depending on inflation.Most Cal PERS pension recipients receive increases of 2% annually.The city closed the supplemental plan to new employees in 2008 because of its high cost, and the legislature later prohibited such plans.But more than 200 active and retired El Monte workers who got in before the cutoff will enjoy the plan’s benefits for life.“The guys I play golf with, they get very angry about my pension because they don’t have anything like it,” he said. He’s part of a coterie of former El Monte civil servants who receive one taxpayer-funded pension through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Cal PERS) — and a second through a “supplemental” plan approved by the city council in 2000.
The extra pensions, along with other sweeteners granted to El Monte employees over the years, have created one of the heaviest public pension burdens of any city in California, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.
Mussenden, who was city manager from 2006 to 2009, is not far behind.
He is among El Monte’s top five recipients of public pensions and one of at least eight who receive 0,000 or more a year.
El Monte’s outsize pension bill weighs heavily on the San Gabriel Valley city of 116,000, where half the residents were born outside the United States and a quarter live below the poverty line.
The idea for the supplemental plan arose in 2000, after the city council granted El Monte police officers the right to retire with up to 90% of their highest salary guaranteed for life.
The retired city manager of El Monte collects more than 6,000 a year, plus cost-of-living increases and fully paid health insurance.