PUBLIC INFORMATION --
The Stanislaus County Employees'
Retirement Association has refused to release records about public
service employees receiving the most lucrative pensions, reports Ken Carlson in the Modesto Bee.

The
retirement board, in a July 31 letter, denied The Bee's Freedom of
Information Act request for the names of retirees whose pensions exceed
$100,000 a year.

It was the second time the association denied
such a request this year, despite recent court decisions in favor of
disclosing public service employee compensation.

For
instance, in April the StanCERA board decided to transfer $60 million
in reserves to fund pensions and benefits so the county could avoid
paying an additional $22.7 million this year to shore up the pension
fund. Officials said meeting the obligation would have required the
county to lay off employees and make unprecedented cuts to public
services.

In some cases, watchdogs add, the individual records show that retirees are earning more than when they were working.

Groups
such as the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility have
published pension information released by major pension funds,
including the California Public Employees Retirement System. But
StanCERA, which administers pensions for employees of the county,
Ceres, the Superior Court and five special districts, has kept that
information under wraps.

The board considered The Bee's request
in a closed session July 28, voting 6-3 to keep the records
confidential. Board members Maria De Anda, Mike Fisher, Darin Gharat,
Wes Hall, Clarence Willmon and Ron Martin voted to deny the request;
Gordon Ford, Mike Lynch and Jim DeMartini disagreed.

In a letter
issued July 31, the association said individual records are
confidential under the County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937. It
further said disclosing the names of retirees and their pensions would
constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

"We have two
Government Code sections that state that member records are
confidential, and we don't have any basis to release the records," said
Deirdre McGrath, a deputy county counsel who advises the board.