Bell, Calif., officials got high pensions

March 6, 2013 at 4:50 PM
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LOS ANGELES, March 6 (UPI) -- The current city manager says Bell, Calif., is considering legal action to claw back some of the inflated pensions paid former officials.

Bell paid almost $1 million into the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to buy extra years of service for 11 officials, the Los Angeles Times reported. CalPERS allows public employees to buy up to five years of additional service time -- thus increasing their payments -- but requires them to make payments for extra years of service out of their own pockets.

CalPERS has now ruled the money Bell paid for extra time belongs to the city. But some officials received inflated payments before the scandal about the city's finances broke.

Since the Times reported in 2010 that Bell officials were receiving extraordinarily high salaries, with the city manager paid more than the U.S. president, many of those involved have been charged. Jury deliberations continued Wednesday for six former council members.

Bell, a Los Angeles suburb, is a mostly poor and blue-collar town with a population of about 35,000.

Doug Willmore, now the city manager, said Bell's legal advisers are considering suing former officials for whom extra pension credits were purchased. Some of the officials involved are trying to keep the additional money.

An administrative law judge in an advisory opinion about one pension said that the city's payments to CalPERS were based on a statement from a CalPERS employee in 2010 that they were "no problem." The judge said the official should be able to keep on receiving his inflated pension.

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