The reappointment of an at-large member to the Merced County Employees’ Retirement Board caused a divide on the Board of Supervisors this week, prompting some supervisors to question the long-standing selection process for board appointments.
County supervisors considered reappointing Mark Bodley to a three-year term that would run to July 1, 2017. Bodley was one of two candidates interviewed for the retirement board position by a subcommittee comprised of the supervisors’ chairman and vice chairman – District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion and District 3 Supervisor Linn Davis.
But their recommendation to reappoint Bodley failed in a majority vote Tuesday. Supervisors John Pedrozo, Hub Walsh and Deidre Kelsey voted against the reappointment.
The supervisors are responsible for appointing three individuals to the nine-member retirement board. Bodley was originally appointed in October 2008, according to county documents. His term expired June 30, but he’ll continue to serve until replaced.
Kelsey, who’s been on the retirement board since 2009, said during the meeting she supports widening the candidate pool for Bodley’s seat and having all five supervisors interview potential appointees – especially for a position as crucial as the retirement board.
A recent state report showed the Merced County retirement system may have the lowest funding level of any public pension system in California. The funding level dropped from 70.5 percent in 2008 to 51.4 percent last year, which means the retirement system could face difficulty meeting its financial obligations in the future.
In addition to Bodley’s position, four other spots on the retirement board, including two alternates, will become vacant by the end of the year. The supervisors approved holding an election in December to fill those seats, which are not appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
In light of challenges facing the county’s retirement system and with the start of a new administrator, O’Banion said appointing Bodley would help maintain institutional knowledge on the retirement board.
“I felt that Mr. Bodley had been on the retirement board and was more familiar with the current situation,” O’Banion said, adding that both candidates were qualified. “I believe he understands a lot of the concerns and problems we had.”
O’Banion said he doesn’t support the idea of having all five supervisors interview appointees, saying it could be impersonal and difficult to have candid conversations with candidates. However, he said the current process – having the chairman and vice chairman interview appointees – can be improved.
“I think it’s more beneficial to have people from the retirement board interview folks that are interested and make a recommendation,” he said. “They work on the retirement system day in and day out, and I would prefer to see them make a recommendation.”
Walsh agreed with Kelsey that all five supervisors should be involved with selecting at-large appointees.
“I just think since we have several appointments coming up, this might be a good time for all board members to be involved with the interviews,” Walsh said. “It was nothing against Mr. Bodley at all, but I was thinking we could get a broader group to apply.”