DWP trio cleared over $1 million in pension pay, new data shows

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com released 2016 pension payout data from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) — the nation’s largest municipal utility district.

Today’s release is the first time that this information has ever been made available to the public, which was provided to Transparent California in response to multiple records requests spanning nearly 3 years.

With an aggregate cost equal to 50 percent of employee pay, the DWP retirement plan is one of the most expensive nationwide — with this year’s annual cost estimated at $465 million, according to the plan’s most recent actuarial valuation.

In other words, for every $100 in payroll, the DWP must spend an additional $50 on retirement costs.

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner highlighted the compounding effect this has in conjunction with salary increases:

“An exceptionally generous — and expensive — retirement plan means that the DWP’s famously above-market salaries end up costing ratepayers twice.”

Factoring in retirement costs boosted average employee compensation at the DWP to roughly $170,000 last year.

Engineering associate’s $363,000 pension tops list

Former DWP electrical engineering associate Nevenka Ubavich’s $363,061 annual pension was the largest of any DWP retiree and the 3rd largest of the over 500,000 public pension payouts surveyed statewide. After Ubavich, the next four largest DWP pensions went to:

  1. Former general manager Ronald Deaton: $356,806.
  2. Former assistant general manager Frank Salas: $336,432.
  3. Former assistant general manager Thomas Hokinson: $239,885.
  4. Former assistant general manager Gerald Gewe: $231,348

The average pension for a full-career DWP retiree was $72,643.

In addition to receiving fully-paid medical benefits while working, most DWP workers also receive healthcare benefits in retirement. When those costs are included, the average pension and benefits package for a full-career DWP retiree was $84,811.

Former DWP audio-visual technician Thatcus Richard — who was recently sentenced to five years in state prison after pleading no contest to nine felony counts of embezzlement — received $67,688 in pension and health benefits last year, according to the data.

DWP salaries, benefits well above market average

“While it is not uncommon for California public workers to receive dramatically richer retirement benefits than the taxpayers who must fund them, DWP workers are unique because every component of their compensation is so far above their private sector peers.”

In a previous analysis, Fellner found that the average DWP worker received wages 67 percent greater than their comparable, Los Angeles-area peers.

This gap increased to 155 percent after accounting for the DWP’s atypically generous health and retirement benefits. Of course, DWP employees also receive significantly greater levels of job security and favorable overtime pay provisions that would increase this disparity further.

The study estimated that the DWP could save nearly $400 million annually by reducing pay to market levels.

A city-commissioned study also found that the DWP’s payroll costs — on both a per-customer basis and as a percentage of total assets — were among the highest of the comparable utility companies surveyed.

Lowering the DWP’s payroll to the median level of the utility companies surveyed in that study would reduce costs by roughly $320 million a year.

The recent contract that provides DWP employees with a significant pay raise over the next five years highlights the importance of transparency, according to Fellner.

“Far too often taxpayers are provided misleading or incomplete information regarding the compensation costs that they are required to pay for. By providing complete and accurate pay data, Transparent California empowers the public with the information necessary to make informed decisions.”

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com — the state’s largest and most accurate public pay and pension database.

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 of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

DWP supervisor, once again, boosts salary to nearly $400,000 with a $216,000 OT payout

Today, Transparent California released 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for over 100,000 special districts workers statewide.

The data reveals that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) Electric Distribution Mechanic Supervisor Joseph Strafford’s $216,741 overtime payout — which boosted his total earnings to $394,549 — was the highest of any special district worker surveyed. This is the 2nd year in a row Stafford has held this distinction, with a $225,000 OT payout topping the 2014 special district list last year.

The next three highest OT payouts amongst special district workers all went to DWP employees:

  1. Steam plant operator Jorge Castillo’s $201,175 OT payout helped boost his $76,000 salary to $293,530.
  2. Steam plant operator Rudy Rivera’s $183,077 OT payout helped boost his $75,000 salary to $276,374.
  3. Steam plant operator Steven Pike’s $176,432 OT payout helped boost his $72,000 salary to $269,796.

In total, the DWP spent $174 million in overtime in 2015 — a nearly 15 percent increase from the previous year.

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner noted that the DWP has a history of overtime abuse, such as a contract provision that pays employees for work performed by outside contractors.

“The DWP serves as a powerful reminder of the folly in blindly assuming that every penny in OT spending is justified.

“Last year’s $174 million in OT spending was nearly double the 2006 amount, which was when the ‘DWP overtime scam’ was first reported. With provisions that demand DWP workers get paid for the work other people do, at ratepayer expense, it’s no wonder so many are frustrated with the power of political unions in California.”

Fellner also noted that, even excluding OT pay, the average DWP employee already makes more than twice what their private-sector counterpart does.

The DWP did not provide benefits data on an individual employee level and, as such, are unrepresented amongst the top special districts with the highest average employee compensation packages.

LA Metro chief collects over half a million

LA Metro chief Richard Thorpe’s $514,980 compensation package was the highest of any special district worker in Los Angeles County.

The next four highest-compensated Los Angeles County special district workers were:

  1. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger: $501,932
  2. Southern California Association of Governments executive director Hasan Ikhrata: $501,932
  3. Los Angeles County Sanitation District GM Grace Hyde: $431,447
  4. DWP electrical service manager Michael Mundo earned $424,866 just in wages, which excludes benefits.

The three Los Angeles County special districts with the highest average compensation packages for full-time, year-round employees were:

  1. Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD): $176,212
  2. West Basin Municipal Water District: $158,781
  3. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: $157,817

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

To explore the data further, please 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 of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Four Los Angeles retirees collected $1 million-plus pension payouts last year

Four Los Angeles police and fire retirees collected over $1 million apiece in pension payouts last year, according to just-released 2015 pension data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

Retired assistant fire chief Timothy Manning’s $1,181,309 pension and benefits package was the highest of any retiree surveyed — with $996,161 coming from the controversial deferred retirement option plan (DROP).

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 three highest-compensated Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension (LAFPP) retirees were:

  1. Retired police commander Stephen Jacobs, who collected $1,115,747
  2. Retired deputy police chief Mark Perez, who collected $1,105,441
  3. Retired deputy police chief Terry Hara, who collected $1,043,667

The average full-career city worker is a pension millionaire

Regular city employees belong to a separate retirement plan —the Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (LACERS) — which does not offer DROP and did not provide the cost of health benefits on an individual basis. The average full-career pension for all LACERS retirees was $63,025, which jumped to $75,624 when looking at only those who retired in the past year.

These individuals are now “pension millionaires,” according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“Fidelity Investments currently charges over $1.75 million for an annuity large enough to provide the same level of retirement income at LACERS’ average retirement age of 60.”

The top three LACERS’ pension payouts went to:

  1. Retired personnel department general manager Margaret Whelan, who collected $235,333
  2. Retired harbor department general manager Bruce Seaton, who collected $234,420
  3. Retired harbor department port pilot Michael Owens, who collected $232,413

Fellner noted that the number of Los Angeles retirees who received pension and benefits packages of at least $100,000 increased nearly 22 percent since 2013.

“As the number of $100,000-plus pension payouts soared, so has the cost to taxpayers, which just hit a record-high 46 percent of payroll for safety officers and 26 percent for regular city workers.

“Including the DWP pension plan, Los Angeles spent over $1.5 billion on pension and retiree health costs alone in 2014, which represented nearly 12 percent of total expenditures.

“Studies have shown that growing retirement costs result in reduced city services, higher taxes or both.”

Leroy Baca’s $342,000 payout 3rd highest amongst County retirees

Transparent California also released 2015 pension data from the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association, which does not offer DROP, but still had dozens of annual payouts of more than $250,000.

The top three pension and benefits packages received by Los Angeles county retirees went to:

  1. Retired Harbor General chief physician Charles Mehringer, who collected $419,666
  2. Retired Harbor General chief physician Robert Morin, who collected $344,080
  3. Retired sheriff Leroy Baca, who collected $342,849

The number of County retirees who collected at least $100,000 increased 19 percent since 2013.

Average 2015 full-career pension and benefits package for Los Angeles-area retirees

LApensions

Transparent California is still working on obtaining pension payout data from the DWP, where costs have risen to astronomical heights, Fellner said.

“The 53 percent of payroll required to fund the DWP’s pension plan is, by far, the most expensive non-safety pension plan I’ve ever seen.”

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

A full-career is defined as at least 25 years of service for police and fire retirees, and 30 years for regular retirees.

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 of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

DWP security guard triples $64,000 salary to $197,000 with OT, other pay

Today, Transparent California released 2014 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for 38 of Los Angeles County’s largest special districts, representing 95 percent of all Los Angeles County special district workers.

The data reveals that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) security officer David Laser more than tripled his $63,944 salary with over $100,000 in overtime pay (OT) and an additional $32,686 in other pay, for total wages of $197,042.

The three highest OT payouts amongst LA county special district workers all went to DWP employees:

  1. DWP electric distribution mechanic supervisor Joseph Strafford: $225,459
  2. DWP steam plant maintenance supervisor Thomas Conner: $143,202
  3. DWP electric distribution mechanic supervisor Daniel Haerle: $140,648

Strafford’s $225,459 OT payout was the 5th highest out of the 2.35 million 2014 salary records currently on TransparentCalifornia.com.

The DWP did not provide benefits data on an individual employee level and, as such, are unrepresented amongst the top special districts with the highest average employee compensation packages.

LA County special districts

The three Los Angeles County special districts with the highest average compensation packages for full-time, year-round employees were:

  1. Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD): $172,949
  2. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: $168,135
  3. West Basin Municipal Water District: $162,845

Click here to view this information for all 38 Los Angeles County special districts surveyed.

WRD’s highest average compensation package was, in large part, due to an average benefits cost of $60,958 per full-time employee — the highest of any district surveyed.

The three highest-compensated Los Angeles County special district workers were:

  1. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger: $520,422
  2. Southern California Association of Governments executive director Hasan Ikhrata: $515,893
  3. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Richard Thorpe: $485,990

DWP

In addition to Laser, DWP steam plant assistant Clayton Louie more than tripled his $59,255 salary to $178,685, with an additional $106,700 in OT and nearly $13,000 in other pay.

In total, nearly 1,200 DWP employees increased their salary by at least 50 percent with OT and other pay.

The average full-time, year-round DWP worker received $118,115 in wages.

While the DWP did not provide benefits data on an employee level, aggregate data obtained from actuarial reports suggests an average cost of nearly $50,000 per employee for retirement benefits. Additionally, the DWP spent an average $18,125 per employee on health benefits, according to the city controller’s office.

Medical and retirement benefits that cost 5 and 15 times more, respectively, than what the median private employer pays demonstrates why the public needs to receive complete compensation data, says Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“Largely shrouded from public view, the cost of government workers’ benefits has ballooned to unsustainable heights, crippling local agencies and burdening taxpayers.

The average full-time DWP employee, for example, is costing ratepayers an amount much closer to $185,000 than the $118,000 the pay-only data suggests.”

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

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater than the “annual salary minimum” reported.

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 of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Our study on DWP pay featured in LA Times Op-Ed

DWP ratepayers may get soaked again

As detailed in a recent paper by TransparentCalifornia.com,  DWP employee pay is up to three times greater than that of its private-sector counterparts. The average full-time, year-round DWP employee made $114,941 in 2013. This is despite providing a level of service that in 2011 had it ranked the 13th most hated company in the nation in one survey.

As detailed in my study, the DWP could save approximately $392M a year by reducing pay to market average.

A recently released city-commissioned benchmarking survey confirms these findings – the DWP paid an extra $323 million in payroll, when compared exclusively to other, similar sized utilities in the same region.

You can view and search the 2013 DWP payroll report here.