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Why isn’t there a Sunshine Portal for Public Pensioners?

By   /   May 6, 2012  /   No Comments

The Watchdog submitted a public records request to the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico (PERA) asking for the names of retirees who had retired before age 50 and have a yearly pension of $75,000 or above. The request was denied in an email from Christopher Bulman, Assistant General Councel at PERA, citing New Mexico statute Section 10-11-130 (I) which states, in part: “Neither the retirement board nor the association shall allow public inspection of, or disclosure of, information from any member or retiree file without prior release or consent by the member or retiree.”

The Watchdog got interested in this idea when observing that other states do have public employee pension sunshine portals. Take New Jersey, for example. Governor Chris Christie had a website put up named Your Money.

The site states that “Governor Christie believes the website will help taxpayers better understand public finances, make government more accountable and, ultimately, make an essential contribution to the Governor’s effort to provide top quality services at prices the taxpayer can afford.”

He also wants the public to know that the state of New Jersey faces one heck of a public employee pension tsunami. So he names names on the site and allows the public to view 110,281 public employee payroll records and 276,299 pension recipient records. According to our affiliate Watchdog site in New Jersey, the state has what a reporter calls the “$100K Club.” It’s an elite corps of retired public employees collecting more than $100,000 dollars a year from state pensions. The club had 1,244 members last year, up 28 percent from 2010. The New Jersey Watchdog highlights one police director who retired at age 47 to draw a $115,019 annual pension. On his way out, he collected $376,234 from the city for unused vacation, sick and personal time. One year later, the police director was rehired in the same position at a $120,000 salary. For one job, he receives two checks, totaling $235,019 a year.

New Jersey has good reason to raise public awareness of its state pension obligations. New Jersey’s unfunded pension obligation has grown by 350 percent in just the last five years, accelerating even after a special gubernatorial task force called for reform to be “a top priority.” The panel, created in 2005 by Gov. Richard J. Codey, said “reform of the system should start now,” pointing to an unfunded obligation – the difference between what the fund is worth and what it owes – that totaled, at the time, $12.1 billion.

Five years later, the unfunded obligation has grown to $54 billion as of the most recent accounting, and many of the task force’s top recommendations, including a “no more pension holidays” warning, have largely been ignored by lawmakers.

Over in Nevada, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, found over 1,000 state and local government workers, many of them police and firefighters, making over $200,000 a year when all pay and benefits are counted. The Las Vegas Police Department Assistant Sheriff earned nearly $545,000 total compensation, according to the data provided to the NPRI.

What about New Mexico?

According to Rio Grande Foundation pension analyst Scott Moody, in a policy paper available here,”New Mexico’s defined benefit retirement system is massively underfunded. The pension system reports an unfunded liability at somewhere between $7.5 billion and $22.9 billion.

Of course, this particular study is based on aggregate data sets and projections and not on specific public employee payroll records and pension recipient records such as is available to the public in states such as New Jersey and Nevada.

New Mexico does have the Sunshine Portal – the official transparency and accountability portal for New Mexico state government. The portal allows public access into government spending, budgets, revenues, exempt and classified employee salaries, government contracts and more.

What we don’t have in New Mexico is the official transparency and accountability portal for public employee payroll records and pension recipient records.

The Watchdog thinks we should. After all, a humongous I.O.U. ought not be hidden from the people obligated to pay for it.

Click here to LEARN HOW TO STEAL OUR STUFF!

  • David Collins

    I can tell you the names of those who collected in excess of $75,000 annually as of September, which was the last time I requested these records. There were 192 earning more than $75K at that time, but I can’t say what are their ages.

    At that time, PERA staff counsel Christopher Burman wrote:

    “In response to your public records request, attached please find a spreadsheet containing a list of all recipients of PERA retirement benefits for the month of September, 2011, including the gross amounts paid. The additional information you requested is not subject to public disclosure pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 10-11-130(I).”

    The entire spreadsheet is available at the link below. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be available on request now as it was in September. Other information about retirees, such as their age or work history, is not as readily available.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/92640991

    I ranked the monthly gross payments and sorted out those earning the equivalent of $75,000 or more annually. Here’s that list:

    MICHAEL GZASKOW $10,473

    REED DASENBROCK $10,359

    KAREN ARMITAGE $9,572

    MARIA GOLDSTEIN $9,245

    JOHN KELLY $9,201

    PAULA TACKETT $9,191

    SUBHAS SHAH $9,071

    LARRY MERRETT $8,968

    ROBERT GISH $8,964

    BRUNO ZALDO $8,960

    MAX BAKER $8,877

    LYNN PICKARD $8,843

    JOANNA PRUKOP $8,457

    SANDRA GRISHAM $8,336

    DAN SOSA $8,335

    LAWRENCE RAEL $8,298

    DAVID ORTEGA $8,137

    DANNETTE BURCH $8,108

    MONTROSE SIMMS $8,057

    JAMES LEWIS $8,053

    JAY CZAR $7,978

    ROBERT ORTEGA $7,926

    DAVID BONEM $7,905

    JOSEPH BACA $7,858

    BOB STOVER $7,794

    JAMES GILL $7,743

    JANE BLUMENFELD $7,705

    MARK MACARON $7,651

    ALBERT ALARID $7,562

    JOSEPH POLISAR $7,545

    CLAUDE TABOR $7,532

    CATHY FERNANDEZ $7,489

    DONA WILPOLT-COOK $7,479

    MARK SANCHEZ $7,467

    RHONDA FAUGHT $7,446

    RUDY APODACA $7,441

    LARRY GORDON $7,415

    JAMES BROWN $7,398

    CONSUELO MAKI $7,382

    ROBERT GURULE $7,370

    ELROY HANSEN $7,367

    DAVID SENA $7,335

    BARBARA WILLIS $7,301

    PAUL ONUSKA $7,234

    JERALD VALENTINE $7,226

    JUAN VIGIL $7,218

    HARRY STOWERS $7,213

    WALTER NICKERSON $7,206

    CLARENCE LITHGOW $7,171

    ROBERT ROBLES $7,169

    THOMAS DONNELLY $7,168

    HENRY SAAVEDRA $7,159

    GERALDINE RIVERA $7,156

    DONALD THOMPSON $7,141

    JON TULLY $7,140

    ABE MONTANO $7,124

    JAMES MARTIN $7,117

    MICHAEL CASTRO $7,110

    DANIEL JONES $7,097

    FRED HENSLEY $7,070

    ALBERT MURDOCH $7,064

    FREDDIE AGUIRRE $7,057

    GILBERT GALLEGOS $7,026

    D. PAULINE RINDONE $7,021

    ELDON MARR $7,009

    ALVIN JONES $7,001

    JOHN DANTIS $6,964

    MARLA BROOKS $6,938

    WILLIAM LANG $6,928

    FRANK WILSON $6,906

    CECELIA NIEMCZYK $6,866

    ROSS ARANDA $6,861

    JAY HARRIS $6,860

    V LEE VESELY $6,859

    MARK MCCLOSKEY $6,846

    GERALD MARACCHINI $6,845

    PHILIP ASHBY $6,844

    JAMES BLACKMER $6,840

    LEONARD ORTEGA $6,840

    STEPHEN RODRIGUEZ $6,837

    RICHARD C DE BACA $6,832

    ROBERT THOMPSON $6,831

    BRUCE TRIGG $6,818

    JOE LUEHRING $6,816

    RALPH GALLINI $6,813

    NICHOLAS ALARID $6,807

    MORRIS HULING $6,805

    VIVIAN WEINDER $6,794

    RICHARD MONTOYA $6,793

    CARL ROSS $6,788

    ROBERT OTERO $6,787

    THERESA GOMEZ $6,786

    MARIE BACA $6,780

    GARY WEIDNER $6,772

    ROZIER SANCHEZ $6,770

    ROBERT WILLIAMS $6,769

    STEVE HENSON $6,766

    MICHAEL CALLAWAY $6,765

    ELOY MONDRAGON $6,748

    FABRIZIO BERTOLETTI $6,740

    ANNE KASS $6,722

    RONALD ROMERO $6,714

    PHILLIP JARAMILLO $6,713

    IRENE GARCIA $6,710

    TRACY HUGHES $6,704

    MARK GARCIA $6,699

    BENNY FLORES $6,695

    ROY ROBINSON $6,695

    KATHRYN RAVELING $6,677

    PAUL CHAVEZ $6,673

    PETER DINELLI $6,666

    ELTON HODGSON $6,665

    DEBORAH JAMES $6,661

    THOMAS SWISSTACK $6,653

    JUANITA DURAN $6,643

    MICHAEL MARTINEZ $6,631

    MARSHA DAVALOS $6,614

    JAMES HALL $6,613

    DEBRA GRIEGO $6,607

    FARON SEGOTTA $6,597

    JOSEPH ORTIZ $6,592

    DENISE WILCOX $6,585

    STEPHEN MASSEY $6,581

    PEGGY NELSON $6,580

    JOE GALVAN $6,577

    ART ENCINIAS $6,566

    RAYNALDO RIVERA $6,561

    LUCAS MONTOYA $6,559

    JAMES SHULER $6,552

    MARY MCINERNY $6,552

    JOHN STRAND $6,552

    G CHAVEZ $6,551

    RICKY PURCELL $6,547

    MEENAKSHI NAYAK $6,547

    JOHN HODGES $6,545

    JAMES BURLESON $6,543

    KEVIN MCCABE $6,543

    JOSEPH CALDWELL $6,541

    Sammy Pacheco $6,540

    JOHN DENKO $6,535

    DORIAN DODSON $6,529

    TRINIDAD MORRA $6,526

    RICHARD DINEEN $6,511

    EDWARD SAUER $6,501

    TIMOTHY BOURGOINE $6,496

    MICHAEL KAVANAUGH $6,490

    BRUCE PERLMAN $6,478

    DAVID STOLIKER $6,457

    ERIC SERNA $6,455

    ANTHONY ARMIJO $6,455

    DARYL SCHWEBACH $6,452

    WAYNE BOWER $6,449

    JOSEPH SILVA $6,449

    DONALD PETERSON $6,442

    LARRY BURCH $6,437

    BELARMINO GIRON $6,431

    ERMA SEDILLO $6,411

    DAVID RAMIREZ $6,403

    WILLIAM WEILAND $6,393

    ROBERT ORTIZ $6,387

    JAMES EMSING $6,386

    JAMES MUSGROVE $6,384

    JOE BOWDICH $6,383

    RICHARD QUILLIN $6,382

    JAMES ALLEN $6,370

    PATRICK FRANCOEUR $6,366

    SUSAN CONWAY $6,355

    JAMES ERICSON $6,347

    DEBORAH KUIDIS $6,345

    MARK HIRSCH $6,343

    CHARLIE TRUJILLO $6,343

    LEONARD GARCIA $6,333

    ADOLFO ZUBIA $6,332

    TONY ATKINSON $6,323

    DEWEY CAVE $6,318

    ALBERT CHAVEZ $6,317

    ALAN KIRK $6,308

    JOHN KORMANIK $6,294

    DENNIS GARCIA $6,288

    NICHOLAS BAKAS $6,285

    CHRISTOPHER RIVERA $6,285

    ROBERT PORTILLOS $6,281

    JAMES BOLLETER $6,281

    ROBERT HORWITZ $6,274

    ALBINO MARTINEZ $6,273

    PETER BRADLEY $6,271

    MIGUEL CARRILLO $6,269

    WILLIAM MCBEE $6,268

    TOD BROWN $6,266

    SALVATORE BARAGIOLA $6,261

    BENNY ROYBAL $6,258

    W JOHN BRENNAN $6,255

  • http://newmexico.watchdog.org Thomas Molitor

    David, thanks for this information. Interesting that Mr. Bulman would reject my request entirely, although my request did ask for the age of retirement and the employer at retirement as well. Thanks for reading the Watchdog.

  • Jane

    I see a number of “retired” judges on this list who were corrupt during their time on the bench. They manipulated cases to hand their buddies favorable results. One of them handed Smiley Gallegos hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally — but right in front of the public eye through a lawsuit. None of them should be receiving a cent for their fraud.

  • http://newmexico.watchdog.org Thomas Molitor

    Jane, this is why I wanted my public records request to include in the data set the “employer at retirement” variable. Is the retiree an ex-cop, ex-firefighter, or ex-judge, etc. Names and pension amounts only tell part of the story as you point out.

  • David Collins

    Contrary to the claims of legacy media that we’re served all the news that’s fit to print, all we ever know is part of the story. The challenge is to find enough of the story to verify that the story being told accurately reflects reality.

    Public opinion — and law — is trending against publication of public employee’s individual birth dates. A retirement portal wouldn’t change that. In so far as retiree’s ages affect the state’s actuarial estimates of future obligations, that information is available in the aggregate in studies of the funds’ viability. Some of it is reflected in PERA CAFR’s too, which are available online at state Web sites.

    While current laws (NMSA 10-11-130(I)) might prohibit PERA from releasing of position-at-retirement info, moving forward, that information could be found on the state’s Sunshine portal. For the most part, it’s not available there in a useful format.

    Under Gov. Martinez, the Sunshine Portal does include names of state employees, but the legislature has twice refused to mandate inclusion of those names. That might or might not change, but the names are public records, available from the state personnel office in a paper format. It’s called the state organizational listing. With or without the sunshine portal we can get the names on paper — or in a digital format that resembles paper (pdf). Journalists have posted them online.

    With the monthly state organizational listing — in a digital format — we would be able to determine for all future retirees who was the employer at retirement. At least from the time we the people start keeping an eye on things, we could track the entire job history of workers who migrate from state agency to state agency.

    But an analyst needs those names in a useful digital format — one that includes machine-recognizable data such as a spreadsheet. That’s the law we need to target – the one that lets the state refuse access to digital public records (NM 14-3-15) while providing those same records in nearly useless paper formats.

    The legislature has required administrations to “include information from the previous month or year” in the sunshine portal. So far, with regard to state employees, that hasn’t been done. Nor has information on the portal been made available for download as an entire set.

    With or without employee names on the Sunshine portal, monthly downloads of currently filled positions, hire dates and salaries would be sufficient to cross reference with the list such as PERA provided me in response to a public records request. It’s a simple computational problem of cross referencing the names that disappear from the state employees list each month with new names that appear on the retirees list.

    With proper access to digital public records, we — the private sector — can create our own Sunshine Portals that offer more analysis than the editors at the legislature agree to include in the the state-run portal. I can write a program that monthly downloads the retirees list and the state employees list, then compares them for differences.

    If we could download the full set of state contracts data from the current “sunshine” portal, we could programatically cross reference that list with retirees who return to work back for state or local governments as “contract employees” while collecting state pensions. Unfortunately, the format of the “sunshine” portal prevents systematic download of those records.

    Corporations data is another public data set not included on the sunshine portal. It’s available piecemeal from the Secretary of State Web site, but the entire public record — a database — is not available for download. If we had digital access to the state corporations data, we could look for retirees who are officers of corporations that now do business with the state.

    We don’t need Sunshine Portals to accomplish that. While portals are sometimes useful, these graphically rich sites often get in the way of retrieving information for off-line analysis. All we need for computational analysis is the spreadsheets at a stable URL (internet address) and a link to that address where we the public can download public records.

  • Evan

    Quite a few double dippers on this list. Henry Saavedra is a state legislator, and he will also receive a legislative pension on top of this. Tom Swisstack is on here, but he is still getting a huge salary at Bernalillo County, and getting a check for being the Mayor of Rio Rancho.

  • Poindexter

    The title’s question from this article says it all. The Public Pensioners made reference to were those Civil Servants who were likely making six figure salaries. Many of the agencies they were Managed to run, were vastly understaffed and overworked. And oh yeah … underpaid

    Those Managers in referenced were “The Preachers” who were responsible for admonishing their subordinate staff for not being in compliance. Staff who were overloaded while multi tasking assignments. Some of those respective agencies are responsible for protecting the communities safety as well, which explains why their wouldn’t be any Sunshine Portal for Public Pensioners.

    In essence why would “the pigs eating at that the trough”, want anyone else to know how well fed they are during such lean times.

  • Jim Wall

    I think a good follow-up report would be to see what PERA members are receiving a pension and are still working for the state (double or triple dipping). I’ve heard that the ones that are double dipping put their current salary into a program offered by the PERA called defered compensation in which their earnings are not taxed. So, not only are they soaking the tax-payers by double dipping, they are not even paying income taxes on their current earnings adding insult to injury to the tax payers. It would be great to see if this is actually happening and who is doing it as part of the effort to see transparency in state government.

  • http://newmexico.watchdog.org Thomas Molitor

    Jim, I think that is an excellent idea. I will follow-up on the phone with my PERA contact and confirm if it does or does not have a “deferred compensation program.” If they do, the next step would be to do do a public records request to identify the names of the retirees on the payroll who are in the program. The step after that would be to identify those retirees who are double- and triple-dipping. As alway, thanks for reading the Watchdog and contributing good ideas.

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