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Friday, October 23, 2015

Retired Alameda County Fire Chief Told To Repay Pension For Double Dipping

Former Calif. Firefighter Told to Pay Back $450K Pension Benefits


Oct. 22--The board of the state's largest pension system ordered a former Alameda County assistant fire chief on Wednesday to repay more than $450,000 in pension benefits.
Two weeks after an administrative judge ruled that David Wheeler illegally collected a $60,000 salary from the Loomis Fire District while also receiving $137,000 a year in retirement from the Alameda County Fire Department, the California Public Employees' Retirement System board finalized the ruling.
"This is a clear case of pension abuse that CalPERS will not tolerate," said Matt Jacobs, CalPERS general counsel. "We remain on the lookout for all forms of pension spiking and encourage the public to help us root it out."
The pension giant determined that Wheeler, despite repeated warnings, knowingly violated the law while collecting his pension, working as the permanent chief for Loomis. Wheeler maintained that his position was temporary.
The practice of retiring, collecting a pension and working elsewhere is known as "double-dipping." In some scenarios, it is allowed, but Wheeler was told by CalPERS officials numerous times he could not work more than 960 hours a year at the Loomis job if he wanted to collect his Alameda County pension. His job as the Loomis fire chief exceeded that, CalPERS found.
Wheeler retired from Alameda County Fire on Jan. 8, 2007, and was hired by the Loomis department the same year. When the Loomis agency joined the CalPERS retirement plan in 2010, an employee from the pension giant warned Wheeler he could not continue working in the part-time job and collecting his East Bay pension.
"Wheeler's response expressed assurances that his hours would not exceed 960 hours," CalPERS said.
However, CalPERS determined his chief position required more hours.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.
Copyright 2015 - Contra Costa Times

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