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Braziel contract complies with CalPERS rules for working retirees

Sacramento County officials say hiring a retired Sacramento police chief for a contract position does not run afoul of laws governing public employee pensions.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a contract with Rick Braziel to serve as the county’s inspector general, a post charged with overseeing citizen complaints about the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and recommending changes in the way the department is run. Braziel, a 33-year-veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, retired in December 2012 and receives a pension from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which restricts some post-retirement employment.

The CalPERS board last month ordered former Loomis Fire Chief David Wheeler to pay back more than $450,000 in pension benefits after an administrative law judge determined that Wheeler had violated state law. Wheeler had received a CalPERS pension for his work as a firefighter in Alameda while also receiving a $60,000 annual salary from the Loomis Fire Protection District. According to CalPERS, collecting a CalPERS pension while working a job more than 960 hours a year is a violation of state law.

Braziel said Wednesday that he had checked to make sure accepting the inspector general post did not run counter to CalPERS rules for post-retirement employment. His situation differs from Wheeler’s in that he will be working as an independent contractor and will receive no benefits from the county. County officials also noted that the county is not part of CalPERS, but has its own retirement system, the Sacramento County Employees’ Retirement System.

A CalPERS guide to employment after retirement, available via the CalPERS website, states that a service retiree can work in private industry or for an employer that does not contract with CalPERS for retirement benefits and continue to receive a CalPERS retirement allowance.

If he were to take a job as police chief or a position that had previously been held by a county staff member, Braziel said, he would have to work less than 960 hours a year or “un-retire.” But, he said, the office of inspector general, established by the county in 2007, has always been filled by an independent contractor. Braziel said he anticipates working more than 960 hours, particularly the first year as he works to develop community relationships.

Under the agreement with the county, Braziel will receive a total payment of $120,000 annually. Normal costs of administering the office – such as phone charges, travel reimbursement and certain association memberships – will be paid by the county and are estimated at $10,000 per year, according to a county staff report.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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