Some say Mayor Don Bankhead retired from the police force too early, unfortunately missing out on the last decade’s massive pension spikes that have driven modern public safety pensions well into six figures. As a result, Bankhead’s annual CalPERS pension is only $81,351.16, still about three times what the rest of us might be able to get from Social Security.
But Bankhead found another way to boost his pension. Through a series of dubious disability claims filed towards the end of his career, he was able to make at least 40% of his retirement tax-free. The injuries were allegedly suffered when Bankhead fell down some stairs and then later worsened when he fell out of a chair, according to this LA Times article from 1990.
“Chief’s Disease,” as these disability pension spikes are commonly called, were all the rage in law enforcement circles in the 80′s and 90′s. At one point, eighty percent of senior CHP retirees had curiously developed debilitating injuries in the last two years of service, which made up to 50% of their pensions tax-free for the rest of their lives.
So how much does Bankhead get tax-free? The city won’t tell us, and neither will CalPERS. Bankhead’s case file was recently destroyed by the workers’ comp court where his case was heard, and no journalists bothered to follow up on the story.
One thing we do know: Bankhead didn’t “throw in the towel” due to alleged injuries. He quit after he had been passed over for the Police Chief job, and promptly announced his ambition to run for the Fullerton City Council. Then he tried (unsuccessfully) to run against Brad Gates for Orange County Sheriff.
That’s a lot of ambition for a guy who doesn’t pay his share of income taxes because he’s “totally disabled.”