Dumanis’ Pension: $249,600 a Year, At Least

Dumanis’ Pension: $249,600 a Year, At Least

Photo by Sam Hodgson

If District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis completes her term, she'll be eligible for a pension of about $250,000 annually.

 

As District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis navigates San Diego pension politics during her run for mayor, she’ll have one particular issue to deal with: her own retirement check.

Dumanis’ pension would approach $250,000 annually assuming she finishes her current term in office in 2014, according to a voiceofsandiego.org analysis. If she wins the election and serves eight years as San Diego’s mayor, she’d be eligible to receive a pension worth more than $305,000 a year.

In either case, Dumanis’ pension, after almost 40 years as a county typist, deputy district attorney, Superior Court judge and elected district attorney, would allow her to receive more money annually in retirement than her salary any year she was employed.

For years, pensions have dominated San Diego politics and, with the city’s financial problems still unfixed, they promise again to be at the center of the 2012 mayoral campaign.

Most reforms have focused on trimming the benefits of future workers. As Dumanis formulates a plan, her own pension provides a stark reminder of how high public employee pensions can rise and opens a window into some of the perks enjoyed by judges and those who move from government to government.

“I think there’s something wrong with that system,” said Dumanis, a Republican. “I didn’t create that system and I’m going to fix that system.”

If Dumanis is elected mayor, she’ll have worked for three different governments and be eligible for three pensions. To calculate her pension, those governments will use some combination of the number of years she worked, her age at retirement and her salary.

Here’s how Dumanis’ pensions would break down:

San Diego County

Dumanis began her government service in 1974 with an entry-level county job as a junior clerk typist, delivering mail and answering telephones. She went to law school, became a deputy district attorney and later was elected D.A. She’s spent her entire career at the county except for her stint as judge.

Assuming she finishes her current term as district attorney, she will have worked 32 years there. Last July, she received a raise to $240,739.20 annually. Her pension not only is based on her salary. She’s also allowed to include her $12,000-a-year automobile allowance in the calculation.

Estimated pension (if she retires at the end of her current term as D.A.): $225,467.04

Estimated pension (if elected mayor and retires after two terms running the city): $210,386.76

Judiciary

Dumanis was elected as a judge in 1994 and served until she became district attorney eight years later.

Her pension won’t be based on her pay as a judge, however. It will be based on what judges are paid when she retires. So even though she hasn’t been a judge since 2002, if she retires in 2014 she’ll receive a pension based on what a judge earns then.

Dumanis took about 18 months off to run for district attorney, so she served 6.5 years as a judge.

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If current judicial salaries stay flat, Dumanis’ judicial pension will be based on a salary that’s $40,000 more than she ever made as a judge.

Estimated judicial pension: $24,136.52

City of San Diego

If Dumanis wins the mayor’s race and is re-elected four years later, she will be in charge of the city until 2020. We analyzed Dumanis’ city pension over eight years because it’s common for San Diego mayors to be re-elected and they have a two-term limit.

Her city pension, if she took one, would not be based on the $100,000 she would make as mayor. Instead, the city would pay her a pension based on her district attorney earnings, which are about $150,000 more.

This system, called reciprocity, allows public employees to credit their highest pensionable earnings to different governments’ pension systems. Reciprocity would spike Dumanis’ city pension by $43,000 a year more than if it were based on her mayoral salary.

Estimated city pension (if she accepted it and retired after two terms): $70,766.98

We based our analysis on pension formulas and salary information from San Diego County, the city of San Diego, the state and their affiliated retirement systems. Dumanis allowed access to her county pension records and provided some of her own information about her judicial pension.

The analysis is conservative. It doesn’t take into account potential judicial pay increases, any raises Dumanis could receive as district attorney or any pension cost of living increases.

Dumanis’ retirement payout shows the disincentives politicians have toward reforming pensions, said Marcia Fritz, a Northern California accountant and pension reform advocate who is working on a statewide ballot measure to trim retirement benefits.

“It takes a special person to be able to rein in costs when it affects you, too,” said Fritz, who studies pension payments statewide.

Before being contacted for this story, Fritz said she wasn’t aware that some former judges receive pensions based on active judges’ salaries. She said she knew of only a few elected officials in California who are entitled to a larger pension than Dumanis.

Dumanis called her own pension payment “sizable” and said it is part of the reason she wouldn’t accept a city pension if elected. She said she’s held that position since she started campaigning.

“I’m definitely not,” she said. “I have been very clear. From day one, I made that decision.”

Dumanis made a distinction between city pensions and the other pensions she will receive. It’s the city’s system, she said, that is unaffordable, unsustainable and needs reform.

She defended her pension as one earned after decades of hard work in public service. Her benefits were promised at a time when pensions made up for government salaries that were lower than the private sector. Partners at private law firms in the city, she said, earn much more than she does as district attorney.

Despite her own payout, her experience as a public employee and manager puts her in the best position of any of the candidates to enact pension reform, she said.

“I think no one can do it better than I can,” she said.

Pensions have been the singular issue in San Diego city politics for the better part of the last decade. Pension deals struck in 1996 and 2002 between unions and management led to numerous federal and state investigations, the resignation of a mayor and threats of bankruptcy.

San Diego has yet to emerge from its pension crisis. An initiative that would replace pensions with 401(k)-style retirements for all new city employees but police officers is expected to be a key battle during the June 2012 election, the same ballot as the mayoral primary.

Other candidates entitled to public pensions have to address the ballot measure, too. Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, who also served on the school board and City Council, opposes the measure. Democratic state Sen. Christine Kehoe and Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher have yet to take a position. Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio isn’t accepting a city pension and is a co-author of the measure and a major supporter. We examined Dumanis first because of her high salary and generous county benefit formula.

Dumanis opposes the 401(k) initiative. She argues city firefighters and lifeguards still should receive pensions.

But her own city pension reform proposal, she said, is likely to include the ballot measure’s other elements, such as 401(k)s for general city workers and reduced pensions for public safety workers.

Dumanis believes that future city elected officials should receive 401(k)s, though she said she wouldn’t accept one, either, if she were mayor.

Dumanis said she was surprised she is eligible to use her district attorney’s salary to determine her city pension.

“I think that’s even more outrageous that you can do that,” she said.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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36 comments
William Smith
William Smith subscribermember

probably insignificant since it is not that common.

dmopbuff
dmopbuff

probably insignificant since it is not that common.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

We don't need an incompetent DA to become another distaster mayor like Susan golding who orchestrated our financial disaster. Dumanis's refusal to press charges against Li Mandri and Paul (Joe) Mannino in their Little Italy fraud which had been documented by the police and FBI is just one example. As has been revealed Li Mandri is a buddy of Mayor Sanders and no surprise the latter followed suit by endorsing Dumanis.

Activist
Activist

We don't need an incompetent DA to become another distaster mayor like Susan golding who orchestrated our financial disaster. Dumanis's refusal to press charges against Li Mandri and Paul (Joe) Mannino in their Little Italy fraud which had been documented by the police and FBI is just one example. As has been revealed Li Mandri is a buddy of Mayor Sanders and no surprise the latter followed suit by endorsing Dumanis.

Irving Levine
Irving Levine subscriber

By the way, "execellent prosecutor" when was the last time she prosecuted a high level Government employee of embezzlement?.....never, they are potential contributors to her campaign

IRL
IRL

By the way, "execellent prosecutor" when was the last time she prosecuted a high level Government employee of embezzlement?.....never, they are potential contributors to her campaign

joe vargo
joe vargo subscriber

I have one question. Bonnie Dumanis, may I speak truth to power. The first officer accused of rape: what is the status? You have received numerous endorsement as to your ethical standard. Show Me!

joev
joev

I have one question. Bonnie Dumanis, may I speak truth to power. The first officer accused of rape: what is the status? You have received numerous endorsement as to your ethical standard. Show Me!

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

I worked with Bonnie Dumanis when she was a clerk typist in the Northeast District office of the County Welfare Department. Bonnie has earned every penny of her pension if and when she decides to retire or leave the DA's office. I'd like to see any of the jealous whiners who complain about her pension survive on a county clerks salary, putting themselves though law school, then serving as a judge with felons plotting to kill them, etc. There are far too many people out there who spend all their time badmouthing others who have worked hard all their lives and earned a pension. If those people had their way, indentured servitude would be brought back for everyone except them. Quit your whing and get a job.

Don Wood
Don Wood

I worked with Bonnie Dumanis when she was a clerk typist in the Northeast District office of the County Welfare Department. Bonnie has earned every penny of her pension if and when she decides to retire or leave the DA's office. I'd like to see any of the jealous whiners who complain about her pension survive on a county clerks salary, putting themselves though law school, then serving as a judge with felons plotting to kill them, etc. There are far too many people out there who spend all their time badmouthing others who have worked hard all their lives and earned a pension. If those people had their way, indentured servitude would be brought back for everyone except them. Quit your whing and get a job.

Elmer Walker
Elmer Walker subscriber

If Bonnie becomes mayor of San Diego, we can expect her to cut the pensions of current and future employees. She has always put herself and the unions above the taxpers and is glib enough to convince the majority of the taxpayers that she is for them.

elmerew
elmerew

If Bonnie becomes mayor of San Diego, we can expect her to cut the pensions of current and future employees. She has always put herself and the unions above the taxpers and is glib enough to convince the majority of the taxpayers that she is for them.

Michael Friedman
Michael Friedman subscriber

I forgot to mention more than seven years overseas, three combat tours, surgeries on my leg, shoulder and jaw (non-combat related). Like all other city/county employees, I couldn't just come home at night, I spent more than a year away from my family. Military are different, especially the hardships. Ever serve, try it, you may change your mind.

1cowboy
1cowboy

I forgot to mention more than seven years overseas, three combat tours, surgeries on my leg, shoulder and jaw (non-combat related). Like all other city/county employees, I couldn't just come home at night, I spent more than a year away from my family. Military are different, especially the hardships. Ever serve, try it, you may change your mind.

bob gomez
bob gomez subscriber

In ancient China the bureaucrats grew their fingernails until they curled. This was to show the working people they were "above" working with their hands. On average every 200 years the people of China would become so desperate because of the leeches they would revolt, kill them all and start a new government. This took place almost like clockwork. The new regime would come in, be efficient, and after 200 years would become completely corrupt again. Nothing will change until we revolt.

cordedpoodle
cordedpoodle

In ancient China the bureaucrats grew their fingernails until they curled. This was to show the working people they were "above" working with their hands. On average every 200 years the people of China would become so desperate because of the leeches they would revolt, kill them all and start a new government. This took place almost like clockwork. The new regime would come in, be efficient, and after 200 years would become completely corrupt again. Nothing will change until we revolt.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

Ahhh, the plight of a "public servant."

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

dialyn, actually the current pension was definitely NOT the deal when Dumanis (or any 15+ year public employee) "signed on." When Dumanis started county employment, the pension was good compared to the private sector, but probably less than half as valuable (compared to salary) as today's pensions. And much of the retroactive increases she didn't have to pay for. It's been a huge generational giveaway, and Dumanis is the LAST person I'd look to for real pension reform.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

dialyn, actually the current pension was definitely NOT the deal when Dumanis (or any 15+ year public employee) "signed on." When Dumanis started county employment, the pension was good compared to the private sector, but probably less than half as valuable (compared to salary) as today's pensions. And much of the retroactive increases she didn't have to pay for. It's been a huge generational giveaway, and Dumanis is the LAST person I'd look to for real pension reform.

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor subscriber

Love that Dumanis thinks this makes her an expert on how small a pension other people have earned. Same as super-wealthy DeMaio lecturing city employees for earning too much pay.

lucasoconnor
lucasoconnor

Love that Dumanis thinks this makes her an expert on how small a pension other people have earned. Same as super-wealthy DeMaio lecturing city employees for earning too much pay.

cynthia Gladstone
cynthia Gladstone subscriber

All the city workers have plum retirement (by the way most don't like or even have to work) - I know one lady who is going on a short term medical leave (6 weeks) and I said who will do your job and she said oh they won't have a problem. It'll be fine. Wait then why are you getting a lifetime pension on me? Occasionally we have to work she said. And she's thinking of buying a second home - must be nice. She gets her pension in a couple of years - for life! WOw - where did the rest of us go wrong? Teachers, lifetime pensions, summers off, and city workers who won't be missed while their on medical leave..... amazing...

cynjy29
cynjy29

All the city workers have plum retirement (by the way most don't like or even have to work) - I know one lady who is going on a short term medical leave (6 weeks) and I said who will do your job and she said oh they won't have a problem. It'll be fine. Wait then why are you getting a lifetime pension on me? Occasionally we have to work she said. And she's thinking of buying a second home - must be nice. She gets her pension in a couple of years - for life! WOw - where did the rest of us go wrong? Teachers, lifetime pensions, summers off, and city workers who won't be missed while their on medical leave..... amazing...

Dianne Parham
Dianne Parham subscriber

That was the deal available to her when she signed on. She's not going to pay for her own retirement if she can get someone else to do so--most people wouldn't. She didn't set up the system...she simply can take advantage of it. But most City and County workers don't have those kinds of pensions. Unfortunately because she does, citizens think everyone who works for government becomes wealthy. I didn't. Most people don't.

dialyn
dialyn

That was the deal available to her when she signed on. She's not going to pay for her own retirement if she can get someone else to do so--most people wouldn't. She didn't set up the system...she simply can take advantage of it. But most City and County workers don't have those kinds of pensions. Unfortunately because she does, citizens think everyone who works for government becomes wealthy. I didn't. Most people don't.

Robert Castaneda
Robert Castaneda subscriber

What's ironic here is that I am no fan of the councilman, but these acts by self-serving politicians have reached a crescendo with the voters. Politics is about timing and "owning" the wedge issue. Advantage Carl. However, this race has a long way to go.

Castaneda
Castaneda

What's ironic here is that I am no fan of the councilman, but these acts by self-serving politicians have reached a crescendo with the voters. Politics is about timing and "owning" the wedge issue. Advantage Carl. However, this race has a long way to go.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

Indeed, this subsidy is a HUGE disadvantage for any private sector person desiring to enter politics -- when the main opponents often are on the government payroll while they campaign.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

Indeed, this subsidy is a HUGE disadvantage for any private sector person desiring to enter politics -- when the main opponents often are on the government payroll while they campaign.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider subscribermember

Here's yet another irony of high government pensions -- it encourages seasoned government employees and management to retire early as they make nearly as much retired as they do working. But aren't these pensions supposed to "recruit AND RETAIN quality employees"? Another counterproductive, expensive government giveaway.

Richard Rider
Richard Rider

Here's yet another irony of high government pensions -- it encourages seasoned government employees and management to retire early as they make nearly as much retired as they do working. But aren't these pensions supposed to "recruit AND RETAIN quality employees"? Another counterproductive, expensive government giveaway.

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson subscribermember

lifornia. Or at least that's what DA's in other Counties say. So, I hope people do not confuse what Dumanis has accumulated with some of the craziness associated with "spiking" and other manipulations that have deservedly received so much attention. :)

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson

lifornia. Or at least that's what DA's in other Counties say. So, I hope people do not confuse what Dumanis has accumulated with some of the craziness associated with "spiking" and other manipulations that have deservedly received so much attention. :)

Graham Yost
Graham Yost subscriber

If someone is making $250K a year, shouldn't they be able to save for their own retirement? I appreciate that she worked for 40 years, but that type of money to "retire" on (plus medical) is outrageous.

vitacado
vitacado

If someone is making $250K a year, shouldn't they be able to save for their own retirement? I appreciate that she worked for 40 years, but that type of money to "retire" on (plus medical) is outrageous.