LAO Report Recommends Legislative Investigation of CHP Chiefs’ Medical Pensions
The Legislature should require the California Highway Patrol to investigate why 80% of its chiefs receive medical pensions, compared to 56% of lower-ranking officers, according to a Legislative Analyst's Office report released Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reports (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 2/25).
A Bee investigation in September 2004 found that more than 80% of high-ranking CHP officers filed workers' compensation claims within two years of retirement, a practice that in some cases could qualify them for settlements and medical pensions that exempt about half of their post-retirement from taxes (California Healthline, 9/28/04).
In October 2004, a report ordered by CHP Commissioner Michael Brown found that the Bee's figures were accurate but that the discrepancy might be attributed to chiefs retiring at later ages and factors that increase chiefs' risk for workplace injury. The CHP report said such a pattern "can be seen throughout the rank structure."
However, LAO report author Paul Steenhausen said that chiefs' pension rates "are significantly higher than everyone" else's including cases in which retirement ages for captains and lieutenants are comparable to those of chiefs.
The report states that CHP's workers' compensation costs increased 89% in eight years and that the department's medical pension rates are higher than those of police and firefighters statewide.
CHP spokesperson Kelly Huston said Brown could not comment on the report, saying, "We're going to need to compare their findings to our initial report."
Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) said studying the issue "is worth the time and attention" to determine whether higher rates are due to officers' knowledge of the system or whether chiefs' pensions are being approved by cohorts in higher positions. "By their own admission, they recognize it's been abused. It's in everyone's interest to get it cleaned up," she said (Sacramento Bee, 2/25).