Fall Out of a Chair, Get a Tax Break. Bankhead Discovers “Chief’s Disease”

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.


View the article

“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.

In my day, we didn't have 3 at 50. We had to be creative.

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.”

Those Nutty Californians Want to Roll Back Public Pensions

Here’s something unexpected: the progressive collective of California voters appears to be sick and tired of supporting the exorbitant retirement schemes of our public servants.

A new poll by the Los Angeles Times and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences found that pension reform is supported in this state by a wide margin. Specifically…

  • 70% want to cap pensions for current and future public employees;
  • 68% say public workers must contribute more to their own retirement funds;
  • 52% support hiking the retirement age of government workers.

I wonder how that poll would go over in Fullerton?

Who Does Don Bankhead Blame for Fullerton’s Pension Crisis?

The other day someone remarked that Don Bankhead has never accepted the blame for any of the bad votes he’s made since the beginning of his 23 year reign on the city council.

Twenty-three years at the helm…surely there must be at least one single thing that even the most narcissistic of government officials would accept partial blame for, right? Well, how about Fullerton’s pension crisis? Don Bankhead voted for every single pension and salary spike put in front of him over the last 23 years, and has done absolutely nothing to curb the excesses that have brought hundreds of millions in debt upon the shoulders of Fullerton Taxpayers.

Let’s see what he has to say for himself:

Who’s fault is it? Oh, it’s the stock market’s fault!

Nobody could have possibly predicted that stock investments carry an inherent risk, and that their value may not increase forever, and that by boosting these pension commitments, Bankhead was dumping ever-increasing chunks of risk onto future generations of Fullerton taxpayers.  And of course the unions would never try to talk an unsuspecting buffoon into boosting their benefits at the very peak of a cycle, where smooth sailing into a rich eternity seems practically guaranteed.

Up and down? That theory is old fashioned.

Nope, none of this is evident to the dim bulb who went along with the biggest series of heists in Fullerton history. It’s all somebody else’s fault, and there’s nothing that he can do about it now.

Sadly, nobody has had the heart to tell Don Bankhead that the pain of nearly two hundred million dollars in pension debt will be shared by his very own children and grandchildren.

How’s that for a legacy?

Some Numbers

It’s almost April. Our wise and courageous city council is already wading through wage negotiations with the city employee unions for the upcoming budget year. How did we get this far without adding up Fullerton’s total unfunded pension obligation? Oh well, here it goes…

Pension Plan
Total Liability
Market Value of Assets
Unfunded Liability
Fullerton Public Safety
Fullerton Miscellaneous

That’s a grand total of $192 million in what is essentially “pension debt” for which we have no foreseeable plan to pay, even when we include all of our future contributions and expected market gains.

The pension plans are already paying out $9 million more per year to retirees than they are taking in via contributions, so there’s no help there. But our required contributions are increasing significantly, starting this year.

With no perceivable way out of this hole, maybe it’s time to hit the road and put it all on black.

I think I'm getting the fear.

All of these numbers came from the 2010 CalPERS reports for Fullerton’s Public Safety and Miscellaneous pension plans.

Boo Hoo: Chief Fire Hero Decries ‘Vicious Attacks’ Against Union Gluttony

Here’s a new message from Harold A. Schaitberger (yes that’s the head of the International Firefighter’s union’s real name) where he warns firefighters that “attacks on your pension plans are like a tsunami rolling across the country.”

A pension tsunami? Chief, I think you’re a little mixed up. Pension Tsunami is a famous little website that was cooked up right here in Fullerton, CA, and you probably don’t want to be spreading THAT message any further. Oh well, too late.

Our response?

I am hero and deserve.

Levinson Calls for Outsourcing Bids Against All City Employees

Check out this clip of resident Barry Levinson challenging the city council to tackle our unfunded pension liability problem at the February 2nd council meeting.

Once he gets past the dreary numbers, Barry suggests that the city manager obtain outsourcing bids to create a dollar baseline as a heavy bargaining chip during the next set of negotiations with the unions.

The lumbering Mayor Pro Tem, both a recipient and perpetrator of the ridiculous pension scheme, became agitated and cut Barry off several times, but Barry got his point across in the end.

OCFA Lights A Match

As Fullerton is forced to face our own massive pension debt this year, it’s helpful to look around to see what others are doing. And then aim higher. Much higher.

It all started in one careless moment.

The county firefighters’ union just conceded that new members will have to work 5 more years until they reach retirement age, allowing them to retire at 55 instead of 50. OK, so they still get a ridiculous 90% of pay and will retire at least 12 years earlier than the rest of us. But it’s a baby step in the right direction.

To begin addressing the deficit caused by current employees, union members will also pay their own portion of the retirement contributions, building up to the full 9% of pay as required by state law.

Both of these concepts could be applied to Fullerton police and fire contracts. Of course, they wouldn’t come close to solving our pension problems. But if the prima donnas at OCFA will volunteer these concessions, Fullerton should be able to do better. Much better.

Certainly this sets a new minimum for pension reform in Orange County. With soaring pension costs set to take escalating millions out of our budget next year, we must do something NOW.

Of course, we won’t let anyone forget that several of our council members have promised to tackle the issue.

Did I really say that?

What Are They Doing Now?

No. You can't dig your way out.

So who really is responsible for Fullerton’s out-of-control “public safety” pension vortex?

Here’s a handy list of everyone in the history of Fullerton who’s ever voted for the public safety  3 @ 50 pension scam, and their current whereabouts:

Yay! Red jello!

Don Bankhead (R) – Fullerton City Councilmember, and Mayor.

Why not 4 @45? That's prit' near a hunnerd percent!

Dick Jones (R) – Fullerton City Councilmember.

No, I don't mind dressing up like a goddam idiot...

Chris Norby (R) – State Assemblyman, 72nd District

The bathroom is over there, behind the wig shop.

Mike Clesceri (R) – is rumored to be working security at suburban Chicago mall.

Can I vote now? I'm ready!

Jan Flory (D) – tries to remain relevant by stirring up neighborhood resentment against kids riding bikes.

And there you have it. A 5-0 vote. Motion made by Flory and seconded by Norby, to go along with the most irresponsible vote in the history of Fullerton.

Kaboom. One Hundred and Twenty-Seven Million Dollars

Fullerton’s public safety pension debt just exploded.  Numbers from a new report just released by CalPERS pin the unfunded pension liability for Fullerton’s police and fire at $126,843,150.

Hey little guy. Cash or credit?

The new figures represent a first look at Fullerton’s pension crisis after the market crash of 2007 (yes, CalPERS is that slow.)

Of course these dismal digits are probably optimistic, given that CalPERS is still using the ridiculous rate of return that the unions used to cook up these obscene benefits in the first place. We did, however, take the liberty of removing the absurd “smoothing” calculation that adds a magical $73,000,000 to the fund, even though that money does not exist anywhere.

Warning: 76 pages of boring

$126,843,150.00. Let’s put that number in perspective: it’s enough to fund the entire Parks and Rec department for the next 27 years, re-pave six million square/ft of deteriorating roadway or completely staff Fullerton’s libraries until the year 2058.

Paying that debt (assuming it doesn’t get worse) will require an additional $3,000 from each Fullerton household, above and beyond our current taxes. That’s just for unfunded public safety retirement debt, which allows these public employees to receive 90% of their highest pay at age 50 for the rest of their lives.

Fullerton Fire Hero Goes Viral

Our famous firefighter video has become some sort of Internet sensation, bringing in tens of thousands of viewers and building some serious buzz. Oddly enough, the clip seems to be extra popular on computers within the halls of public agencies throughout the nation.

But just in case you missed it, here it is again:

And a special thank you to our anonymous friend, Mr. Oliver Stone. The popularity of this clip has inspired other cinematic greats such as “Cop Gets Schooled” and “Fire Chief Watches House Burn.” Keep ’em coming, Mr. Stone.