US - The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has launched a review of all members who earn more than $400,000 a year following widespread public outcry over an official's salary in Los Angeles County.
The $210bn fund has also begun drafting new regulations to ensure increased transparency of public agency salaries after reports that Bell, a city of 37,000 in Los Angeles County, had been paying its city manager $787,637 a year - nearly twice US President Barack Obama's salary - along with a pension that could top $30m if he lives to age 83.
CalPERS chief executive officer Anne Stausboll said it had followed the law on the Bell issue, but accepted regulations needed to be tightened.
"We are taking immediate action to investigate whether salaries of top public officials are being reported correctly and in accordance with the laws and rules that govern our system," said Stausboll.
"We are committed to increased transparency and will take all steps necessary to protect our members, employers and stakeholders. We followed all the existing pension rules related to Bell four years ago, but it is clear that we need to work toward strengthening our regulations and possibly state law."
In addition to its review of high public official salaries, CalPERS is also joining the California Attorney General to investigate the facts surrounding the salaries and other compensation of City of Bell officials, conducting its second review of Bell and placing on hold the retirement accounts of the individuals under investigation in the City of Bell. It has also pledged not to approve any pensions until satisfied they are appropriate under the law.
CalPERS said it performed a membership and payroll review of Bell in 2006 which showed the city manager received a 47% salary increase. CalPERS informed the city that they could request an exception to the average increase for an individual who is not in a group or class as provided under regulations. The city requested such an exception in October 2006.
"The laws regarding public pensions need to be rigorously followed and CalPERS is here to make sure they are," said Stausboll.
"It is important to remember that pay and compensation are set by elected city and county officials. CalPERS review of the one- time increase in the city manager's salary was based on state law for retirement purposes and was not an endorsement of the size of the salary increase."
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