PERS payout information now available, searchable on TransparentNevada

  • Thursday, February 13, 2014

LAS VEGAS — Nevada PERS pension payouts for January 2014 are now online and searchable by name at TransparentNevada, the Nevada Policy Research Institute announced today. For the first time, the searchable database at TransparentNevada.com/nvpers will allow taxpayers to easily see how much money former government employees are collecting from Nevada’s taxpayer-backed and woefully underfunded Public Employees’ Retirement System.

The database features retired employee names, January 2014 gross payout amounts and projected 2014 total payout amounts, calculated by multiplying the January payout by 12.

Despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that PERS payouts, retiree names and other pertinent information, including retirement dates, years of service and job titles are public record, PERS continues to defy public-records requests from NPRI and others and has only provided data for January 2014.

On TransparentNevada, users will find that 1,054 past workers are poised to receive more than $100,000 this year in their retirement payouts from the Public Employees’ Retirement System. Another 10,755 are on pace to take in more than the state’s median household income of $54,083. Over 22,000 of the 49,073 retirees collected more than $2,642, the maximum monthly Social Security benefit for someone retiring at 66. And PERS retirees can begin collecting in their 50s or even their 40s.

In response to the findings, Andy Matthews, president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, issued the following remarks:

The PERS payouts now available on TransparentNevada show exactly why PERS bureaucrats worked so hard to keep this information secret. The information shows — in inflated retirement payout after inflated retirement payout — what Nevadans have long suspected: Public employee pensions are exorbitant and unsustainable.

Taxpayers will be shocked to learn that over 1,000 retirees are on pace to receive over $100,000 this year, including 11 over $200,000 a year, and more than 10,000 look to receive retirement payments exceeding the state’s median income. Such payouts reveal part of the reason why the Nevada PERS unfunded liability is around $41 billion, according to normal accounting standards.

Such payouts appear even more problematic for government workers who then retire in their 50s or even their 40s and immediately begin collecting six-figure, taxpayer-guaranteed pensions for 40 years or more.

Finally, in many cases, these projected payouts underestimate the cost to the pension system and taxpayers, because they do not include disability payouts or any health benefits. These payouts, thus, may actually be higher by tens of thousands of dollars annually.

An analysis of the data reveals many reasons for concern over “spiking” — the practice by which public employees inflate their pay during their final year, two or three in their government job in order to generate the most lavish guaranteed pension possible.

For instance:

  • Donald C. O'Shaughnessy, a former Clark County fire battalion chief, made $109,113.72 in base pay in 2009 but is projected to take in $238,772.16 in 2014 in pension payouts.
  • Randall Walker, former aviation director for Clark County, made $229,091.20 in base pay in 2012 and is now on pace to collect $222,949.56 in pension payouts.
  • Christopher Corrado, a former North Las Vegas police lieutenant, drew a base salary of under $121,193.46 in 2011, but received payouts of $29,694.58 in January, which, if sustained, would be a pension of $356,334.96 in 2014.
  • William Munns, a Reno fire battalion chief, made $113,675.30 in base pay in 2011 and is on pace to collect a pension of $154,950.48 in 2014.

“Given the incomplete data PERS has provided the public, we cannot yet confirm any individual case of spiking or inflated compensation, but the data suggests that may be happening in hundreds of cases,” said Matthews. “Is this why PERS officials continue to hide this data from the public and from lawmakers? They appear to fear the public’s reaction, should taxpayers learn the full picture.

“Ultimately, PERS officials are doing a disservice to their members, since hiding this data only fuels public distrust for all government employees, even those who didn't game the system.”

Among the retirees are many current or former elected officials, including:

  • Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, projected yearly payouts of $101,716.44,
  • Former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, projected yearly payouts of $120,137.40, and
  • Stavros Anthony, projected yearly payouts of $146,984.52.

Matthews praised the Reno Gazette-Journal, which spent years fighting PERS in court to gain access to these records. While the Nevada Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the RGJ's public-records request, PERS only provided the RGJ and other requesters, such as NPRI, incomplete January 2014 data and continues to fight the release of other reports it has already created.

“We applaud the work of the Reno Gazette-Journal and its commitment to transparency in government,” said Matthews. “While citizens have a fundamental right to know what their government is doing, when a government agency refuses to comply with the Nevada Public Records Law, the public right to know can only be enforced by going to court.

“Court battles are long, tiresome and expensive, but they are essential to ensuring transparency in government. Nevada's citizens are better off and our right to access government information is better established thanks to the commitment — in time and finances — of the Reno Gazette-Journal.”

Matthews noted that NPRI is currently engaged in a public-records lawsuit against the Clark County School District. The lawsuit is on appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada recently filed an amicus brief supporting NPRI's case.

PERS has pledged to provide NPRI with monthly payout data going forward. When PERS makes additional information available, TransparentNevada and retirees' projected yearly payouts will be updated to reflect the new data.

Since 2008, NPRI has operated TransparentNevada as a public service. Last year, it received over 1.98 million page views.

More information:

 

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Nevada Policy Research Institute 7130 Placid St., Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: (702) 222-0642 Fax: (702) 227-0927 Web site: http://npri.org

This press release has been updated to include a more presise number of retirees who received more than $2,642 in the month of January.