Former LA Assistant Fire Chief cleared nearly $1.4 million in pension pay last year, new data show

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com released previously unseen 2017 pension data for the Los Angeles Fire and Police Employees’ Pension plan.

This year’s top earner was former Assistant Fire Chief Donald Frazeur, who received a one-time DROP payout of $1,171,994 on top of his regular $212,730 annual pension for total earnings of $1,384,724.

The deferred retirement option plan (DROP) allows an employee to draw a salary and pension simultaneously for up to 5 years, with each year’s pension being deposited into an interest-bearing account. Upon actual retirement, the accumulated balance can be withdrawn either as a lump-sum payment or rolled over into an annuity.

The next 4 highest earners were:

  1. Former Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing: $995,845.
  2. Former Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Castro: $931,636.
  3. Former Deputy Fire Chief John Vidovich: $893,906.
  4. Former Fire Battalion Chief Jack Wise: $893,489.

The average full-career retiree received $101,652 in pension pay last year, according to the data. A full-career retiree is defined as those who retired with at least 30 years of service. To explore the complete dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, please click here.

In addition to the police and fire fund, Los Angeles also provides its own pension plan for regular employees. For a press release summarizing the findings from that fund’s 2017 data, please click here: Dubious overtime pay helped boost former LA Port Pilot’s pension to nearly $375,000 a year.


All other cities in Los Angeles County belong to the statewide California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

The newly released 2017 CalPERS data reveals an average pension of $80,175 for those who retired from a city in Los Angeles County. Of those who just began receiving a pension within the past year, the three largest Los Angeles-area CalPERS pensions went to:

  1. Former Gardena City Manager Mitchell Landsell, who is receiving a $258,992 annualized pension after nearly 45 years of service.
  2. Former Pasadena City Manager Darryl Qualls, who is receiving a $215,173 annualized pension after 36 years of service.
  3. Former Vernon City Manager Michael Wilson, who is receiving a $215,000 annualized pension after 29 years of service.

For an extended version of the above list, please contact Transparent California Executive Director Robert Fellner at Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

The 10 cities in Los Angeles County with the largest number of $100,000-plus CalPERS pensions are displayed below. The far right column displays the percentage that those $100K-plus cohort represent as a share of total outlays.


# of $100K-plus CalPERS Pensions (2017) $100K-plus pensions as % of total outlays

Long Beach

390 21%


237 44%

Santa Monica

219 42%


212 31%


181 35%
Pasadena 171


Beverly Hills 111


Redondo Beach 97


Inglewood 91


Culver City 86


To see the individual amount paid to the retirees of each city, please click on the city’s name in the table above.

Fellner believes the best way to understand the impact of the growing ‘$100K club’ is to look at their pensions as a percentage of total outlays, rather than merely as a percentage of total membership.

“Comparing the raw number of those collecting $100K-plus pensions to total membership is an inherently misleading number, which merely reflects the fact that the vast majority of CalPERS retirees have less than 20 years of service credit at retirement.

“The data reveals that those receiving $100,000-plus pensions represent nearly half of total outlays for several Los Angeles-area cities, an amount which is rising rapidly.”

Transparent California will be continually updating the site with new, 2017 data from the remaining pension funds in the coming weeks. Be sure to follow our blog and Twitter accounts, or sign up for our mailing list, in order to receive the latest updates.

For more information, 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 of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. The website is used by millions of Californians each year, including elected officials and lawmakers, government employees and their unions, government agencies themselves, university researchers, the media, and concerned citizens alike. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Categories: 2018, Press Releases

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