Fifty public service retirees are getting pensions greater than $100,000 a year from the Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association, according to records released Friday.
Former County Counsel Michael Krausnick tops the list with a pension of $241,440 a year. He retired in March 2008 after close to 33 years with county government, 24 of those years as county counsel. His retirement pay includes a base allowance of $18,985 a month, plus a $765 cost of living adjustment and $370 monthly stipend for health care.
His wife, Claudia Krausnick, is drawing an annual pension of $102,336.
The five highest-paid pensioners also include retired Sheriff Les Weidman, at $202,288 a year; retired Assistant Sheriff Richard Breshears, $184,948 a year; former county Planning Director Ron Freitas, $172,506 a year; and former county chief executive officer Reagan Wilson, $169,673 a year.
Wilson resigned in July 2003 amid controversy over his business ties to R. Lee Torrens, a consultant who gave the county advice on waste-to-energy issues. The records for the first time disclose the retirement pay for Wilson and other top earners.
The pension records were obtained through a lawsuit filed by The Bee, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and California First Amendment Coalition. The disclosures are certain to focus more attention on the pension costs of local government agencies and the pension benefits for top managers.
StanCERA administers retirement benefits for employees of the county, Ceres, the Superior Court and five special districts. It paid $71.5 million in retirement allowances in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
The association released the pension amounts for all of the 2,791 members receiving benefits. The records show that some former elected county supervisors are getting pensions. Ray Simon is paid a pension of $82,596 a year and Nick Blom is drawing $42,192 a year.
Simon served on the Board of Supervisors for 32 years before retiring at the end of 2006, and Blom served on the board from 1982 to 2002. The pension amounts for Simon and Blom include the medical stipend, which won't be paid to retirees next year.
There is a growing cry for local governments to rein in pension costs and stop granting generous benefits, such as those that allow deputies to retire at age 50 with upward of 90 percent of their salaries.
Ernie Foote, a former president of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association, said the top earners are getting "about twice as much as they should be getting. They have to stop this spiking that is going on. That concerns me quite a bit."
Information was not available Friday to show how the pensions were calculated.
Even some public service retirees have a critical view of pensions for top managers. A large majority of the retired local government workers are not getting nearly as much, said Michael O'Neal, president of Retired Employees of Stanislaus County.
"People are going to be angry about these pensions with a certain amount of validity," O'Neal said. "The rest of us are going to be tarred and feathered when we are not enjoying those kinds of benefits."
County leaders came under criticism in 2004 after documents in a divorce case revealed that StanCERA based former CEO Wilson's pension calculation on a final salary of $25,000 a month, even though Wilson's reported base salary never approached that amount. Wilson could not be reached Friday.
Jim Demartini, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said it's clear other factors were used to boost Wilson's final-year salary and therefore his pension.
"The rule should be the last three years of salary instead of the final year of salary," DeMartini said. "That is where all the games are played with these pensions."
DeMartini said the county is working to create a new tier giving less generous retirement benefits to new employees. He thinks the county should also raise the retirement age for deputies and other county workers, although that would require tough negotiations with union groups.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.