The State Worker

Why CalPERS paid nearly $21,000 per month to an elected official’s widow

The widow of a former Board of Equalization member received nearly $21,000 per month from CalPERS last year, according to fund data analyzed by The Bee, by far the largest monthly pension allowance among those paid to former elected state officials, their beneficiaries and survivors in 2014.

The payment to Mary Nevins was part of $7.1 million in benefits that went to 226 former governors and other constitutional officers, state senators and Assembly members (or their survivors or other beneficiaries) who continue to receive retirement benefits that no longer exist for newer officeholders.

California voters ended pensions for state lawmakers 25 years ago. A 2013 state law did the same to pensions for future governors and other statewide elected officials, collectively called constitutional officers.

But Mary Nevins husband, Richard Nevins served on the Board of Equalization for 28 years during an era before term limits and pensionless state public service. When he retired in 1987, he took only part of his $16,400-per-month pension so that his wife could continue to receive benefits after his death. When he died in 2001, cost-of-living adjustments had boosted his pension such that Mary Nevins received about $15,100 per month.

Subsequent cost-of-living allowances raised her benefit over the years to $20,844.17 per month by the time she died in May 2014, according to CalPERS spokeswoman Amy Morgan, and the account closed with her death.

Gov. Jerry Brown, whose public service and CalPERS membership started in 1971 when he was California’s secretary of state, can apply for his pension once he leaves office in 2019 – assuming the 77-year-old executive doesn’t take another full-time government job with CalPERS benefits.

Here’s the list of former elected state officials, their survivors and beneficiaries who received a CalPERS payment in 2014 and the monthly benefits paid to each.