LADWP: The information we told you was correct is “extremely misleading and incomplete.”

In response to our earlier press release on the publication of the LADWP’s pension data, the LADWP issued the following statement (condensed to the relevant claims, you can find their full release here):

A press release issued by the Nevada Policy Research Center (aka Transparent CA) today includes extremely misleading and incomplete information about an LADWP retiree that is used to attract interest in the story and is falsely represented as indicative of the LADWP retirement system.  The information about an Engineering Associate omits key information…

[Transparent California] cites the [$363,000 annual] retirement payment of an Engineering Associate who was 87 years old when she retired, having made contributions to the Plan for over 47 years.  Her pension amount was calculated by annuitizing the balance in her account over her life expectancy.

The first thing to note is that the LADWP does not dispute a single factual claim in our release. They acknowledge that a retired engineering associate receives a $363,000 annual pension, as we stated. They are correct that it should have come with some note indicating its unusual nature, particularly as it appears hers is the only case out of the over 7,000 retirees that this applies to.

Yet, the LADWP did not include any such note in the data provided to us. Furthermore, we asked for clarification prior to publication, as shown below:

From: Robert Fellner [mailto:records@transparentcalifornia.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2017 12:48 PM
To: Mendez, Veronica C.
Subject: Re: Nevenka Ubavich CPRA R17-16

Hi Veronica,

For Nevenka Ubavich, there is a $363,000 annual pension amount report[ed], which is much too high to be the regular, annual amount — as it would be 300% of final salary!

Is it okay if I add a note indicating that it likely includes a one-time payout of some sort?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Robert Fellner
Research Director, Transparent California
7130 Placid St. Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: 702.222.0642 F: 702.227.0927
E-Mail: Records@TransparentCalifornia.com

From: Mendez, Veronica C.
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2017 2:50 PM
To: ‘Robert Fellner’
Subject: RE: Nevenka Ubavich CPRA R17-16

Please don’t. It is not a one-time payout. The information is correct.

The entirety of the LADWP’s response to a request for clarifying or contextual information about this pension payout was that we should not add a note as “the information is correct.”

It is thus particularly ironic that the LADWP today declares the reporting of this “correct” information as “extremely misleading and incomplete,” given that the LADWP was given the opportunity to provide the necessary contextual information, but refused to do so.

Absent this isolated case, the LADWP did not dispute a single claim in our release. If we ignore the case of Ubavich’s $363,000 pension, the next highest pension was nearly $357,000. The average pension and benefits package for a full-career retiree remains at nearly $85,000 and the cost to ratepayers was still a staggering 50 percent of payroll last year.

Given these facts, it is understandable that the LADWP would prefer to deflect attention elsewhere.

To view the entire dataset, please click here.

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