Getting public information out of city staff is like pulling teeth

26 Sep

Bob sent the article below the other day – it’s a good read for Halloween.

About 7 years ago, short-lived city manager Brian Nakamura told us about the pension liability, and he briefly mentioned the “benefits liability”, but that second topic never came up again. Here below, George Russell talks about the  “OPEB” liability – “other post employment benefits”.


George Russell: Marin County public pensions are due for reform

So, the League of California Cities, and city management all over the state are looking out over the back of the boat, the cigarettes are falling out of their mouths, and they’re saying, “You taxpayers are going to need a bigger boat...” 

Here in Chico, they have never told us point-blank about OPEB, but I’m sure it comes up at those small, daytime meetings that nobody attends. So I asked city finance manager Scott Dowell – he’d recently given me a figure for the “unfunded accrued liability” – I didn’t know if that figure was just pensions or included the OPEB. His response, simply, “No, OPEB is separate.” But no figure, I had to ask for that in a separate email. Cause they just don’t want to tell us this stuff, it’s counter to their best interests.

I call this “willful insubordination,” but I went ahead and sent a separate e-mail asking him for the figure. I try to be nice, I apologize for bothering this guy.  I’ll get back to you with his response. 

8 Responses to “Getting public information out of city staff is like pulling teeth”

  1. bob September 26, 2019 at 7:52 pm #

    For us the boat is a life raft that’s full of holes…and the water is full of sharks.

    Last I heard the city’s (not including CARD) unfunded liabilities were over 21 million but I believe that was just the pensions and that assumed the unrealistic CalPERs 7% return rate. What’s the projection for CARD’s OPEBs?

  2. bob September 26, 2019 at 8:03 pm #

    Also, last city council meeting the council approved all the employee contracts which included pay increases for all the city employees represented in those contracts, so you can bet the future OPEB liabilities are going up even more.

    • Juanita Sumner September 27, 2019 at 5:18 am #

      I have not heard back from Scott Dowell about the citie’s OPEB liability, and I hadn’t had a chance to ask Ann Willmann about CARD’s OPEB.

      I think we’re onto something here.

      • Juanita Sumner September 27, 2019 at 9:57 am #

        Dowell says our “other post employment benefits ” liability is about $8,143,776, as of June 30, 2019

      • bob September 27, 2019 at 11:43 am #

        Wow! That is HUGE!

        So what other liabilities are there that they aren’t telling us about?

        Why hasn’t the ER or News and Review reported this??? And the News and Review supposedly started some foundation for investigative journalism. Why have they not mentioned a word about this?

        The pensions are 21 million or is it 22? I think the last I heard was 21.7 or 21.8 but I think that was last year’s number and it assumes the 7% CalPERs return which CalPERs has backed away from.

        So this means we are looking at around 29 or 30 million? And in reality it is probably much higher due to CalPERs unrealistic return rate.

        This is huge news but not a word from the local media and of course not a word from the City Council that is pushing for another tax increase!

        It just shows that our local government and media, supposedly working for us, will always put the people last and the special interests first!

      • Juanita Sumner September 27, 2019 at 12:23 pm #

        Dowell told me the pension deficit is about $129 million.

        No kidding, they really don’t want people to know how much the pensions and benefits are costing us, all money siphoned from the road, sewer and park funds.

      • bob September 27, 2019 at 1:09 pm #

        Oops…somehow I forgot about the extra $100 million!!! 🙂

        Yes, I should have added a 1 to my numbers.

        But I tell you, when the numbers are that big it all seems unreal, like we are just playing with Monopoly money.

      • Juanita Sumner September 27, 2019 at 2:04 pm #

        Frankly, I had to look at Dowell’s email again – you’re right, these figures are so outrageous, it’s hard to keep them straight.

        I always like to remember back when Jed Clampett was a millionaire and that was a really big deal.

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