Firefighters Lose. How Much Do They Make, Anyway?

Here’s a fun repeat-post from last spring – featuring two of 4SD Observer’s favorite idols: emergency service providers and the dim-witted Pam Keller. For sheer fat-headedness, selfishness, and fiscal irresponsibility, you just can’t beat the ESP union.

– Joe Sipowicz

Pam Keller was the only city council member who did not have the guts to impose a %5 pay reduction on members of the Fullerton firefighter’s union after negotiations failed on Tuesday. The union refused to accept a deal similar to those offered to all other Fullerton employees.

The union says the pay cut is unfair. Is that true? Let’s see what firefighters actually took home last year:

View the 2009 Fullerton Fire Dept payroll

In addition to the gross pay numbers above, firefighters receive the following estimated benefits at the city’s expense:

Pension contribution: ~30% of base salary. Ranges from $15,000 to 28,000/yr, not including unfunded liabilities
Medical: $5,460 to $14,748/yr
Dental: $588 to $1,128/yr

Not a bad gig. It’s no wonder there are hundreds of applicants whenever a position opens up.

Does Keller really think that asking this highly compensated group of public employees to take the same pay cut as everyone else was “unfair?’

Us public employees gotta watch out for each other.

Or perhaps Pam is just sticking to what Pam does best: Helping folks suck as much as possible out of the public trough. By any means, at any cost.

What If Your Boss Gave You a 1200% Retirement Match?

That’s what members of Fullerton’s police and fire unions get from us.

Almost all of the candidates are talking about pension reform now, but they don’t quite have their figures right. According to the city’s HR Director, public safety employees currently pay 2.557% of thier salaries towards their multi-million dollar retirements, while taxpayers pick up the rest. This year, we’re paying an additional 29.752% of their salaries towards their retirements, and it’s set to shoot much higher.

In private-sector terms, that’s equivalent to an employer 401(k) match of 1200%. That’s twenty-four times the average out here in the real world.

What’s Another $30 Million? Charge It.

What happens when you run up a credit card but only make the minimum payment? It never works out very well. But that’s how Fullerton is handling $30,000,000 in retiree health care commitments.

Jack Dean passed along this unfortunate piece from the OC Register which exposes over $1 billion in unfunded retiree health commitments for Orange County and its cities. Fullerton’s spending problem is summarized here:

City Fullerton
Population 138,610
Unfunded costs $29,986,735
Unfunded cost per capita $216
Maximum benefit (per year) $9,744
Paid in 2009 $1,927,528
Does the agency pay only the minimum cost? Yes
Is a lifetime benefit offered? Fire employees
Source: Retiree health costs and other retiree data from local cities and the county; population statistics from the California Department of Finance

Retiree health benefits are negotiated between our city council and the public employee unions during contract renewals. Supervisor John Moorlach says they are an easy squeeze for unions because boosting benefits for employees requires no up-front cost to the city.

Much like exorbitant pensions, these benefits are a long-term commitment where the future costs are impossible to calculate at the time the entitlements are given. Ultimately, taxpayers are responsible if costs “unexpectedly” spiral out of control. And of course, they always do.

Another Republican Cuddles Up to the Union Machine

The other day Fullerton school board candidate and self-described “fiscal conservative” Janny Meyer joyfully announced her acceptance of the Fullerton teachers’ union endorsement.

Well, it's kind of a gray area.

This registered Republican must not be interested in GOP support, since that party has forbidden candidates from taking any union money.

But more importantly, Janny’s campaign is now backed by the very same teachers’ union that has repeatedly sacrificed your child’s education at the alter of paycheck protection. The result? Furlough days and increased class sizes, not good education.

It’s also the same union leadership that fights to protect bad teachers at all costs while refusing to allow schools to reward good teachers. They will boycott anyone who attempts to help parents evaluate teacher performance. They’ve instituted a system which puts young, energetic teachers up on the chopping block while coddling tenured teachers without any regard for job performance.

It makes my head hurt.

Of course, the union would love to pass a new property tax in Fullerton next year so they can keep shoveling money into this flawed system. Any idea how that conflict would churn in the head of a self-styled conservative who is also beholden to the union?

Oh No! Teacher Performance Analyzed

Last week the LA Times released an in-depth analysis of LAUSD teacher performance data which shows a wide variance in teacher quality that can greatly detract from a child’s education.

The analysis angered the teachers unions, who have spent decades lobbying to hide teacher performance data from the public in order to protect bad teachers. As retribution for the LA Times’ disclosure of public information, the unions are attempting to organize a boycott of the newspaper.

State Assemblyman Chris Norby, who was a teacher himself for 17 years, sent out an email blast encouraging these disclosures and asking the public to pay attention to this story.

“Shielding poor-performing teachers hurt both the kids and the teacher. Recognizing and emulating high performers will help us all,” wrote Norby. He also highlighted another major find in the report: the discovery that the educational disparity between  teachers within a given school is much greater than disparities between schools, suggesting that education can best be encouraged by holding teachers more accountable, rather than just pouring money into under-performing schools.

Perhaps someone will attempt disclosure and analysis of teacher performance in Fullerton school districts, although the unions would probably fight it every step of the way. For the good of the children, of course. What we really need are school boards and state legislators who will fight union efforts to coddle bad teachers.

Noob Accidentally Highlights Pension Reform Failure

By taking the more generous retirement plan that was presented to him as a County employee, Supervisor Shawn Nelson has created an onslaught of Internet outrage from the Blue and Red blogs.

Nelson says it was an accident. Was it? County policy requires that all new employees sign up for one of two plans: the old 2.7 @ 55 or the new 1.62 @ 65 that so far, almost nobody has signed up for at all. If you don’t choose, they will choose for you – 1.62 @ 65. Every single new hire in the County government is presented with this scenario.

Oops. That's gonna hurt tomorrow morning.

In any case, Nelson’s decision highlights the dismal failure of Orange County’s alleged pension reform. When presented with two disparate retirement choices, what rational human being would pick the lesser?

If a guy like Shawn Nelson won’t do it, why would ANY public employee go for the option that is ultimately less generous – except, most likely, long-time employee pension abusers?

When union leaders originally hatched this goofy alternative plan, pension experts warned that new employees would not select a 401(k) style plan when offered alongside a traditional, elaborate government pension. Boy, were they right. But the unions and the supervisors went along with it anyway, just so they could notch pension reform in their pathetic pistol grips.

The bottom line: nobody wants a lesser benefit when they can choose a better one.  Orange County’s much ballyhooed pension reform has completely failed because employees can simply avoid it altogether. What a joke.

But back to Nelson. He was presumably elected to represent taxpayers in union negotiations. I do not recall Nelson making any promises regarding his own pension. That would have been nothing more than a distraction from the real issue, as evidenced by Supervisor Pat Bates. Bates promised to not take a pension and followed through with it, but subsequently has done nothing to stop the real problem: runaway entitlements for every employee in the county! All 20,000 of them.

Fullerton Fire Chief Rescues Entire City

When you think things can’t get any screwier at City Hall, look out! According to this story in the Voice of OC, the Fullerton Fire Department will save Brea taxpayers about $220,000 per year by sharing a battalion chief position that is now vacant.

Who would have guessed that Fullerton would come to the rescue of Brea , especially considering our serious budget problems and the deep cuts felt by many? Apparently, Fullerton Fire Chief Wolfgang Knabe must be feeling some brotherhood kindred spirit howling from the mall next door and has taken it upon himself to experiment at Fullerton ’s taxpayer’s expense. According to Knabe, maybe it will work and everyone will save money, or maybe it won’t and we all lose. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it!

Maintain radio silence

In all fairness, let’s hear him out and see what our City Council had to say about Knabe’s plan… (deafening silence) It would appear our own City Council didn’t know we were bailing out the City of Brea and their Fire Department. In fact, no one except a couple of Fire Chiefs seems to know anything about this experiment.

According to the Voice, we will be sharing a battalion chief which will help both cities fill their respective vacancies with the same person who can be in two places at once. Neat trick; I’d like to see it though.

I hear sirens coming and they sound like the Orange County Fire Authority! Ok, here is a trick question for you. Brea citizens and the Brea Fire Department staff wanted to have the department “disbanded”, as the Voice calls it, and have the OCFA take over. Why? Sure the taxpayers save money, but what’s in it for the would-be disbanded employees?

Nelson and Sidhu; Divergent Philosophies On Public Employee Unions

Watch this clip. First you’ll hear from 4th District Supervisor candidate Shawn Nelson and then Harry Sidhu. Both talk about public employee unions.

Remember that Sidhu actually lives in an elegant estate in the 3rd District and faked an address at the Calabria Apartments (2230 W. Lincoln Ave. West Anaheim). Even though he never lived there, Sidhu claimed he did under penalty of perjury (twice).

Sidhu has become the darling of the OCEA and OCSD unions, who poured in over 1.3 MILLION dollars into mailers, radio and TV ads telling us the opposite of what we have already seen for ourselves.

Here’s An Irony: OCEA Heavy Petting Pedo-Perv Kept On Payroll

The OCEA seems to be fixated on sexual pervs and pedophiles these days. At least they are as it relates to Shawn Nelson’s law practice – that seems to be guilty of having the potential to defend one some day.

A Friend forwarded a rather disgusting story about a creep sicko named Kevin Duane Van Otterloo – an OCEA member and Health Care Agency co-worker of OCEA PAC Treasurer Chris Prevatt, pictured above. The tale was told by the OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano back in 2004.

It seems that Van Otterloo was busted for lewd acts perpetrated upon a disabled kid at the County’s Juvie Hall. He plead down the worst felonies but lost his nursing license. Did the County dump this perv? According to Arellano they gave him a $70,000 make-work job in the Animal Care Services Division.

But was there any outrage at OCEA HQ that an admitted pedophile was kept on by the County but was actually promoted? Maybe we will hear back from Nick “Bullhorn” Berardino about any role he and the union may have had in helping Van Otterloo stay on the public payroll. Or maybe Chris Prevatt will chime in on why Van Otterloo got the kid glove treatment instead of being canned.