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Two of the senators pushing PERS secrecy bill receive six-figure public pensions

Updated February 28, 2019 - 10:28 pm

State Sens. David Parks and Joyce Woodhouse each receives a six-figure pension from the Public Employees’ Retirement System. Now, they’re co-sponsoring a bill to prevent you from finding out how much they and other retirees will collect going forward.

State law requires PERS to disclose retiree names, payouts and employment information such as years of service and last employer. You need these details to calculate the generosity of PERS payouts. This data is especially important because PERS says its unfunded liability is more than $13 billion. Using private-sector accounting, however, that number tops $40 billion. PERS is raising contribution rates this year to pay down that debt.

Sky-high payouts are a significant part of this problem. Rossi Ralenkotter, the disgraced former CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, retired last year. He’s now collecting a $284,000-a-year pension for life. Based on his salary history, it looks like he took a reduced pension to provide for a beneficiary in the case of his death.

Former Clark County School District superintendent Pat Skorkowsky retired last year with 30 years of service. His yearly pension is $238,000.

Former Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo earned $190,000 in base pay in 2017. His pension is worth $168,000 a year, which was more than 88 percent of his final year’s base pay. After “retiring” from government after just 27 years of service, he started working as vice president of security at Wynn Las Vegas.

David Noahr earned $157,000 in base pay working for the North Las Vegas police department in 2017. His yearly pension is now $177,000 a year, which is 113 percent of his last full year of base pay. Thomas Carroll retired as a chief deputy district attorney in 2018. His base pay was $161,000 in 2017. He now rakes in a yearly pension of $156,000, equivalent to 97 percent of his final salary.

Pension data comes from PERS via a public records request. PERS provided February 2019 payouts; yearly pensions are extrapolated from that. Salary data is from TransparentNevada.com.

This analysis reveals the generosity of PERS benefits, but it’s impossible to do without retiree names. Yet three state senators don’t want you to see this information.

State Sens. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, Parks, D-Las Vegas and Woodhouse, D-Henderson, are sponsoring Senate Bill 224, which is scheduled for a hearing Friday. It would make the names of public retirees secret. Coincidentally or not, that group includes Parks and Woodhouse. Parks’ pension is $106,000 a year, which he started collecting in his mid-50s. Woodhouse’s pension is $118,000 a year.

Public employees like to claim their names should be private because it’s their pension. That’d be true if PERS were a defined-contribution program. But PERS is a defined-benefit program. That means taxpayers are responsible for any shortages, such as the current one that’s causing contribution rates to increase.

When you sign the checks, you have the right to see to whom they’re made out.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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