Thursday, May 27, 2010
Eastman Blasts Campaign Rival Cooley Over Pension ‘Double Dipping’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley stands to collect more than $400,000 in combined salary and retirement benefits if elected attorney general next year, making him “the poster boy for abuse of the pension system,” an opponent charged yesterday.
John Eastman, former dean of the Chapman University School of Law and one of three candidates in the June 8 Republican primary for attorney general, cited an item in yesterday’s CalWatchDog blog, which is associated with the conservative Pacific Research Institute.
The blog, citing various sources, estimated that Cooley, 63, could retire as district attorney with a pension of more than 94 percent of his $292,300 annual salary, based on 36 years of county service.
Because elected officials are allowed to collect pensions based on previous employment, the combination of his Los Angeles County pension and state salary would give him an annual income of more than $425,000 if the cited figures are correct.
The actual amount could be higher, one of the blog’s sources said, because pension rules typically allow retirees to “spike” their pensions by cashing out unused benefits such as sick leave, vacation, and compensatory time and adding those amounts to salary for pension purposes.
Eastman said yesterday that Cooley—whose campaign did not return a MetNews call for comment—should “come clean with voters about the extent of his efforts to spike his own pension and double dip at the taxpayers’ expense,” and “renounce both pension-spiking and double dipping opportunities.”
Eastman, who has been actively involved in litigation attacking what he claims are unconstitutional increases in state employee pension benefits, said in a statement:
“The exploding costs and massive unfunded liability of public employee pensions is rightly identified as one of the most critical issues facing California. I believe, and many believe, that these retroactive pension spikes were illegal and unconstitutional, and I helped launch the test case in Orange County being litigated right now. Jerry Brown is opposing these lawsuits, and a new Attorney General can reverse this policy and start to address the pension crisis that is literally bankrupting California.”
Because of his own situation, Eastman said, Cooley “cannot ever hope to have credibility or moral authority to fix this problem.”
Repeating other themes of his campaign, which has been heavily sprinkled with appearances before conservative and “Tea Party” groups and on conservative talk radio programs, Eastman added:
“Not only would Cooley be the most expensive public official in our state’s history, but we’d get a poor Attorney General for the expense. Why would the taxpayers ever pay over $400,000 per year, and nearly $5 million in total retirement pay, for an Attorney General who wants to gut ‘Three Strikes,’ mocks the voters on other criminal justice issues, would refuse to enforce their will or defend them on marriage, and is at war with his own employees and many of his current fellow District Attorneys?”
Tim Rosales, a spokesman for the third candidate in the race, Sen. Tom Harman, R-Costa Mesa, said Eastman was “trying to throw spaghetti against the wall and see if it sticks,” in the face of polling showing Cooley and Harman ahead of him by double digits.
Eastman, he suggested, should stick to issues within the traditional role of the attorney general
“If he wants to deal with the budget, maybe he should run for the Assembly” or for the Senate seat that Harman will give up if elected attorney general, Rosales quipped.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company