Editorial: Retired sheriff should consider public perception
What an outrage.
That was the overwhelming tone of community response after the Business Times broke the news last week that retired Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks was suing his former employer for a supplemental pension.
What sticks in the craw of the public — and we are inclined to agree — is that before he went to court to demand an extra $75,000 per year from the county, Brooks already was receiving one of the largest public pensions in California.
Retired for just two years, Brooks currently receives an annual pension of $283,000, an amount that factors in his former base pay of $227,600 plus health care, car, uniform and other allowances. The dispute, now before a judge, is whether he was eligible to receive the supplemental benefit or whether a panel of Ventura County executives made the right call when they denied the benefit because it exceeds IRS limits in place at the time he retired. Brooks says the $75,000 annual supplement should stand because he began participating in the retirement system before the IRS limits were in place.
Whatever the court rules, Brooks’ reputation with the public is now in tatters. His attorney’s comments to contributing writer Tony Biasotti ring a bit hollow. According to the Business Times’ reporting, Brooks’ attorney says the retired sheriff built his retirement plan around the higher figure and now needs the funds to support his charity endeavors, including trips to Haiti.
Ironically, Ventura County has done a relatively good job of managing its pension costs in recent years. New employees are subject to a new plan that provides for dramatically reduced pension costs — and the average pension for county workers is something like one-tenth of Brooks’ current monthly check.
We don’t doubt that Bob Brooks was an effective sheriff. But if he is sincere about wanting to pursue philanthropy and public good, to the extent he wants to operate in Ventura County he will have a lot more success settling with the county or dropping his complaint.
If he chooses to fight, instead of being remembered as the law-and-order sheriff who brought policing in Ventura County into the 21st Century, he will be remembered as just another greedy bureaucrat whose top priority was dipping his hand into the public till.
Business leaders rally around 101 widening
Kudos to the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce for cutting through the bullshit and rallying to the cause of widening the remainder of Highway 101 through Montecito.
The chamber argues, with real effectiveness, that while the Montecito Association is proposing dithering and delay, other stakeholders in the project are suffering. We have argued in the past that a fair hearing for all major players is in order.
But with the project falling behind schedule, others who voted in favor of the Measure A taxes that will help pay for the massive project also should get a chance to speak up.
Montecito is not an island. It happens to sit on a highway that conveys thousands of workers to their jobs every day. Improving congestion and air quality are a major goal of the widening via the addition of HOV lanes.
Goleta is correct in speaking up about the broader impacts of the Highway 101 widening. In the absence of a viable and credible plan, CalTrans should finish up its public process and start moving some dirt.