Local News

Jul 23, 2010 9:28 PM by Ariel Wesler

County CEO awarded controversial retirement package

In an era of budget cuts, Santa Barbara County's early retirement program is designed to save the county money, but for C.E.O. Mike Brown, it's apparently a different story.

As part of Brown's early retirement, the county is paying him 165-thousand dollars of two year service credit through the retirement board. More than 100 people have taken advantage of the incentive program, but in most cases, those positions will temporarily remain vacant until the county recovers the cost. That's not true in Brown's case.

While 119 employees accepted an early retirement offer from santa barbara county, C.E.O Mike Brown is costing them money in the way of $165,000.

Reporter: So you have an employee, Mr. Brown who's leaving as part of the early retirement program, getting a two year credit, but it's not saving the county money. is that right?

Supervisor Janet Wolf: "You know, you can look at it that way."

She says he's in a critical position that the county cannot afford to leave vacant, but she stresses the $165,000 is not a bonus.

"This is not a lump sum payment that's going to mr. brown. It's being payed to the retirement system to pay for his future retirement just like we're doing for everyone else," Wolf said.

Except nearly everyone else is saving the county money. A Board letter from Septemeber 2009 discussing the retirement incentive program reads

"Positions will be expected to remain vacant for at least the period of time sufficient to recover the costs of the retirment incentive and may then be filled a lower levels or deleted once operational efficiencies have been achieved."

"The two years additional service credit under the guise of the early retirement program. I think it's just a perversion of the program itself,"

Greg Mohr retired from the county planning department three years ago. He's also the secretary for the County Retirees Association.

"Most county and city and state retirees are people that are bringing in a thousand or two thousand dollars a month in a retirement benefit and in some cases, that's not even enough to cover their health insurance premiums," Mohr said.

Mr. Brown will stay on until the end of October. The county says it's already begun the process of searching for a new C.E.O.

Mr. Brown's office declined to comment and suggested we speak with Supervisor Wolf instead. County officials say the entire retirement incentive program is expected to save them up to $13 million.


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