San Joaquin Valley’s full-career municipal retirees earn more than residents’ average salary​

For Immediate Release
Contact Robert Fellner, 559-462-0122, 201-206-6469 (cell)

Full-career retirees of San Joaquin Valley-area governments received an average CalPERS pension worth more than the salary of most area residents, according to just-released 2014 pension payout data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

The over 600,000 records — obtained through a series of public records requests to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) ­— reveals average full-career pensions at San Joaquin Valley governments as high as $72,433 for miscellaneous, which includes all non-safety retirees, and $114,645 for safety retirees:

Average full-career pension for largest San Joaquin Valley governments

The 3 largest CalPERS payouts to San Joaquin Valley retirees went to:

  1. Wayne D Hose, former Stockton police chief: $205,188,
  2. Thomas T Morris, former Stockton police chief: $204,390, and
  3. Harold E Nabors, former Madera County Jury Commissioner: $188,804.

“Average full-career pensions that significantly exceed the wages of most full-time workers shatters the myth that CalPERS only provides a modest level of retirement income,” said Robert Fellner research director for Transparent California.

Fellner said that such exorbitant benefits are the reason pension contributions are skyrocketing, “Retirement costs are directly related to the generosity of the benefits promised and, unfortunately, taxpayers are now being required to pay an equally exorbitant sum to help fund them.

Fellner noted that the median contribution for the largest San Joaquin Valley agencies — 21 percent for miscellaneous and 36 percent for safety employees — is significantly higher than the 6.3 percent that private employers pay for their employees’ retirement benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Fellner warned that, “As high as the current rates are, CalPERS is projecting significant rate hikes over the next few years, which threatens to break already cash-strapped municipalities. What’s worse, weakening market conditions means rates will rise even further than anticipated.

With rates already at the astronomical levels of 60 percent or more for safety employees, the counties of Fresno, Kern, and San Joaquin are particularly vulnerable to a potential market downturn.”


The 2014 report contained 19,728 recipients receiving a monthly CalPERS check of $8,333.34 or more ­— representing an annualized benefit of at least $100,000 — a nearly 35% increase from 2012’s report.

The top three 2014 CalPERS pension payouts went to:

  1. Michael D Johnson, former Solano County administrator: $375,990,
  2. Joaquin Fuster, UCLA retiree: $325,278, and
  3. Donald Gerth, former Cal State at Sacramento president: $305,002.

Retirees from local agencies — cities, towns, special districts, etc. — earned significantly more than state retirees:

Average 2014 full-career CalPERS pension by employer type

The top 10 CalPERS agencies with the highest average pensions reveals retirement income that can more than double the earnings of full-time, working residents:

10 largest average full-career non-safety CalPERS pensions by employer

10 largest average full-career safety CalPERS pensions by employer

A full-career for miscellaneous retirees is defined as at least 35 years of service, the minimum required to qualify for Social Security benefits without penalty, while a full-career for safety employees is defined as 30 years or more.

Despite accounting for only 11 percent of service retirees, it is necessary to look at full-career pensions to accurately gauge the system, according to Fellner.

“Just as one assumes a 40-hour work week when comparing salaries, any discussion of pensions implicitly assumes a full-career.

“Furthermore, the disproportionally greater pensions for those who work a full-career reveal an inequity within CalPERS. Part of the generosity of the full-career benefits comes at the expense of partial-career retirees, who receive disproportionally smaller benefits.”

Fellner concluded, “With retirement costs expanding to as much as ten times what private employers are paying, maintaining the status quo is extremely irresponsible. It’s particularly indefensible to force taxpayers to bear the entire cost for the recklessness of union-backed officials who gambled on sky-high investment returns, lost, and now expect taxpayers to bail them out.”

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

 Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

2 replies »

  1. Your article ” full-career oc city retirees earn 54% more than residents average salary”, is misleading and not true.

    Your stats chart shows area residents “median earnings”
    Median is not average. Basic math.


    • Hi Barry,

      The 54% number compares an average to an average. The disparity between medians is actually far greater. As stated in the article:

      The over 600,000 records — obtained through a series of public records requests to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) ­— reveals an average full-career pension of $81,372 for miscellaneous, which includes all non-safety retirees, and $99,366 for safety retirees of all Orange County cities enrolled in CalPERS.

      By contrast, the average annual salary in Orange County was $53,010 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

      $81,372 divided by $53,010 = 1.54.

      The median residents earnings in the chart are not used in that calculation and are provided because the BLS only produces median values, not averages for individual cities. But again, if we were to compare medians to medians, there would be a much larger disparity found.