The Modesto Bee is seeking a court
order to compel the Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association
(StanCERA) to disclose records on the most lucrative pensions of public service
retirees, the newspaper reports.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Stanislaus County
Superior Court. It charges the retirement association had no legal
grounds to deny The Bee's request in July for the names of pensioners
getting more than $100,000 per year.

StanCERA manages a pension
fund for employees of the county, Ceres, the Superior Court and five
special districts. The rising cost of taxpayer-funded retirement
benefits are straining the budgets of cities, counties and school
districts across the state.

Mark Vasché, The Bee's editor, said the legal action is on behalf of the public.

are very disappointed that the StanCERA board has continued to withhold
information we believe the public is entitled to under state law," he
said. "The public … has every right to know how the money it gives
government is spent."

This year, Stanislaus County was faced with
cutting personnel and public services to meet a $22.7 million increase
in its pension fund obligation before the retirement board cut
nonvested benefits to reduce the burden. Actuaries recently have told
StanCERA that steps must be taken to ensure the pension fund's solvency
in the years ahead.

The Bee's court petition seeks to shed light
on Stanislaus County's multimillion-dollar expenditures on public
employee pensions. It contends that a 2007 California Supreme Court
decision requiring the city of Oakland to disclose employee salaries
left no doubt the names and pension amounts of retirees should be

"The Supreme Court's reasoning applies every bit as
much to pensions," said Karl Olson, a San Francisco attorney
representing the newspaper. "Different attorney generals have concluded
that the names of pensioners and the amount of their pensions are
public. We think the residents and taxpayers of Stanislaus County have
a right to know the information The Bee is seeking."

The lawsuit
asks the court to order StanCERA to release the records sought in The
Bee's July 8 records request. If the court order is granted, it asks
that StanCERA be required to pay the newspaper's litigation costs.

A Sept. 22 hearing is set before Judge Hurl Johnson.