County Pensions Open to Public Scrutiny

California must disclose the pensions of the Sacramento County Employees’ Retirement System to the public and media.  A state Court of Appeal in Sacramento sided with the Sacramento Bee and First Amendment Coalition in a dispute over whether the records of individual public retirees’ pensions must be disclosed. (Here.)

The appeals court said the retirement system failed to show the need for secrecy “clearly outweighs the public interest.”  The justices ordered SCERS to disclose the names and corresponding pension benefit amounts of its members.

The retirement officials had argued that disclosure would expose the retirees to unwelcome attention and potentially financial scammers. 

The Sacramento Bee asked in April 2010 for a list of retirees with pensions over $100,000 per year.  The request was part of growing media attention focused on public pensions around the state.  Part of the Bee’s investigation was on retirees who cashed out vacation time or worked overtime in the last year of employment, which can result in a practice called “pension-spiking.”

Case: Sacramento County Employees’ Retirement System v. Sup. Court (Sacramento Bee), C065730

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