CSR to fight pension data release by CalPERS
For immediate release July 11, 2013
Contact: Trinda Lundholm
Largest state retiree organization
will fight release of retiree pension data
by sponsoring legislation or filing suit
July 18, 2013
California State Retirees (CSR) – the largest state retiree organization in California – announced today that it is seeking legislation to limit the amount of pension information currently available through CalPERS under the Public Records Act.
“We understand that some public information must be released by law, but we do not support a pension data system like what CalPERS had proposed because it would have revealed much more than just how much a retiree’s pension is,” said California State Retirees President Tim Behrens. “Most of the 33,000 members in our organization are elderly and many are vulnerable. Releasing even just their name can make them targets for identity theft and harassing marketers and scammers.”
If the Legislature does not help restrict the information available under the Public Records Act, Behrens said CSR will attempt to get relief through the courts.
CalPERS was set to launch its searchable pension data base this month. But on July 10, CalPERS announced it would put off the implementation until seeing what happens with the controversial issue on the legislative front.
As a member of the State Coalition of Retired Employees (SCORE), CSR is joining with other retiree organizations – such as Retired Public Employees Association and public safety groups – who have also expressed interest in pursuing legislation or legal action to protect their members’ rights.
CalPERS has argued that it is legally required to reveal information, such as a retiree’s name, monthly gross pension payment, cost-of-living adjustments and some employment history, to anyone who requests the information. Addresses, birth dates and medical information were not included.
On its website, CalPERS states that it is only required to release information, if asked. When no request is made for the extraneous information, such as years of service and final compensation, CSR contends the information should not automatically be put on the website along with the pension amounts.
In recent years, CalPERS says it has received and fulfilled many requests for public information, including comprehensive inquiries from news organizations. Instead of disbursing the information on a case-by-case basis, CalPERS said the information would be better guarded and less manipulated if kept on its own website, where people could do their own searches.
Ideally, Behrens said CSR would like to see a nameless system that shows only the job title and the amount of the pension.
And anyone looking at this information should note that only a small percentage of the money funding pensions comes from the state, Behrens said. Retirees contribute to their pensions all of their working lives and the predominant funding comes from investments made by CalPERS, which made a 14 percent profit in the last 10 months.
“Just releasing the financial information would actually help spread the truth that the average state worker’s pension is modest – about $26,000 a year,” Behrens said. “Those figures would help refute the outrageous and erroneous news coverage in recent years accusing state workers of making $100,000 or more in pensions. People could easily see that only 2 percent of all CalPERS retirees make pensions like that. That’s the kind of valuable information that could educate the public about the realities of public pensions. But we don’t see the same value in revealing where a person last worked and for how long. At that point, it’s just getting too personal.”
California State Retirees is the largest and most experienced state retiree organization in the state, representing 33,000 retirees throughout California.