Heather Fong's Pension: $277,656 Per Year

Categories: Government
Heather fong with cap.jpg
Heather Fong has become the poster child for oversize pensions
While former Police Chief Heather Fong was about as far from universally popular as you can get, few would question her work ethic.

And yet, no matter how diligently the former chief performed her duties, it's hard not to drop one's jaw at the size of the gargantuan lifetime pension payments Fong is earning as a 53-year-old retiree. That was the gist of a story in today's Chronicle, which claimed the ex-chief is drawing an annual pension of $229,500.

Well, get ready to drop your jaw a little bit more, because the aforementioned number is not accurate. It's too low. By plenty. 

According to the San Francisco Employee Retirement System (SFERS), Fong actually earns two city pensions: One of $566 per month for her (brief) time as a miscellaneous-class employee and a second of $22,572 per month for her 30-plus years as a safety worker. Doing the simple math that's $23,138 per month or $277,656 per year.

SF Weekly wrote a lengthy story about the city's pension quagmire in November. We included a list of the city's highest-earning pensioners, which of course Fong topped. But, she was earning only $265,558 at that time. SFERS' Norm Nickens tells us that workers have received a subsequent Cost of Living Adjustment.

Of course they have.

Truly Golden Years.jpg
Apparently, these 2010 stats are outdated already. And not in a way that helps the city balance its books.


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14 comments
Sales
Sales

I am fully in favor of SF declaring bankruptcy so these pensions can be revised, at least the absurd ones like Heather Fong. Next she will be made a commissioner for 100K/year.

ccampbell1946
ccampbell1946

Wow

I just looked at the spreadsheet in this article. How do you work as a Transit Operator, isn't that a bus driver? Then get a $9,248 per month pension. I get $5,100 for a 40 hour work week and have a PhD in Electronic Engineering. I will get about $2,300.00 per month pension when I retire at 73 with 20 years.

Wow, I need to learn to drive a bus.

Zaggnutt Jones
Zaggnutt Jones

I think these numbers in the article are wrong, unless Fong was part of a really wonky pension system, that dated back over 30 years and was somehow grandfathered in. As far I know from State and city pension systems, no one can receive more than their maximum year's salary. Pensions are calculated based upon either the last year's salary or highest grossing salary, but does not include vacation or sick leave. Otherwise, everyone would bank that up, until they retire, and screw the system.

Yes, she accumulated 30+ years of sick leave. Yes, it was paid out to her. However, under current rules CalPers and most cities no longer pay out for accumulated sick leave, or there is a maximum amount of sick leave/vacation that a person can store. 4-5 weeks, use it or lose it. If she was paid this, then it was because the city was legally obligated to compensate her for the sick leave she accumulated when she started working. Imagine yourself working 5, 10, 30+ years for a city/company, and when you retire they say sorry, but we won't pay you for your vacation/sick time. Only the oldest of employees are still under this old system.

I know it looks crazy, but you legally cannot simply strip benefits away from your employees without proper and legal justification. But believe me, many governments organizations have moved away from this model year ago, because this is not sustainable. Heather Fong is not the poster child of the current system, but an old archaic dinosaur of how the system used to be.

John Rohan
John Rohan

Actually, you can strip away contracted benefits from employees. It's called declaring bankruptcy. And that's exactly where the city is headed.

ccampbell1946
ccampbell1946

I put my thoughts in reply to your post, but I am also replying to the Disqus email so you know I did respond. That for your imput on this matter.

ccampbell1946
ccampbell1946

I contacted the City County Retirement System and asked about her directly. They at first told me she retired under the old retirement system. They sent me the terms for that retirement plan. Once I read through it, I began to ask more detailed questions about her retirement package and I was then told she had actually retired under the new plan and they sent me the plans details.

Again I started to ask questions and they stopped communicating. So I sent the packages to Jon Ortiz, the State Worker, at the BEE and asked him to look into this.

Many at the top take time off OFF THE BOOKS, then collect what they were given in the contract too. If she had 30 years of sick leave, that should have been 2880 hours which is a year and change. Under the rules on my CalPERS plan if I had that much it would add a year and the 5 months to my number of years of service, but no pay out for the time. She would just get about 5% more on her retirement.

If she was on an Annual Leave Plan then she give up 1/2 of the sick time and the remaining 4 hour per month is added as Annual Leave, which she could be paid for, but that would mean 1440 hours not the 2880 hours. The rule is no more than 680 hours can be stored, but you can't make them use it or loose it, because of lawsuits in the past have prohibited this. In my Department, they start to make you take leave once you are over the limit.

I would bet that she had Many OFF THE BOOK Hours and Vacations in the 30 years.Plus in both plans the cap is 80% of highest wages. This also states it excludes Overtime and other extra pay credits.So she should be getting $144,000 and she is getting almost double. She claims she is getting two retirements, one safety and one regular pension. But the regular pension Is less than $700.00 per month.

I do think that if someone digs deep enough you will find another City of Bell in SFO. If they do, then she should not get one dime.

Zaggnutt Jones
Zaggnutt Jones

But if SF is still like the old system, then they are idiots, cuz most cities/states do not work like this.

ccampbell1946
ccampbell1946

OK

I thought I understood the pension systems. I know that in CalPERS there is a 80% cap on your highest base pay, in one of three formulas, However how is Heather Fong's retirement going to be $277,656 a year?

In her last year she made some were around $180,000 per year. Her last year's income was a little over $500,000, which has been reported as being the results of unused leave and sick leave.

NUTS.

Here is how it works, or is supposed to work in the State. If you have a years worth of sick leave when you retire you get an additional years of service, which means and extra 2 to 3% depending upon your age and job classification, but you are not paid directly for the sick leave.. You are also able to get paid for any leave time on the books that has not been used. However, there is a limit to the number of hours you can keep on the books.

In the State you are not supposed to accumulate more than 680 hours of payable leave. So you should only be able to collect that amount in the last check. However, after talking to some people I have found out that the old rules of Use it or Loss it do not apply.

In the past if you have 680 hours of leave on the books you no longer accrued more leave until you went below the 680 hours. But a law suite keeps the State from not paying for accrued leave. However, it should be the job of the Agency to see that when an employee is at the Max they MUST take leave.

If you allow someone to collect a life time of leave then you are paying for it at their highest rate, most likely. This is just not right either. So it should be monitored by the Controller's Office and published on their Transparency of Government Web Pages so the public sees the hording of Leave time.

That way Heather Fong's final check should not be a surprise. I want to know how she gets a $277,000 retirement for the highest wage year being $180,000? Does the City of San Fransisco calculate pensions on base pay or with all the overtime included and if it does it should not. There also should be a 80% cap just the way the CalPERS retirements are calculated.

I can see why people get mad about the Pensions, but this is not the average Pension. At CalPERS in 2005 the average pension payment per month was just under $1,800 per month. A fare cry from the $22,230 she will get each and every month.

So don't go after everyone for the Crooks at the top. It is the same in Corporate America the Top Brass get the big slice of cake and the workers get the crumbs.

Sales
Sales

You are trying the explain away the abusurd. Fong is one of thousands of public employees that have legally gamed the system to roll into retirement with a massive pension the taxpayer can not simply afford.

BackToSchool4You
BackToSchool4You

Your point would come across better if you'd bothered to learn to spell correctly.

ccampbell1946
ccampbell1946

Maybe, but I too am a product of the education system that changed how it teaches spelling every few years too. But I should take more time to edit too.

Winters
Winters

So now we're told to vote to raise taxes--to cover government debt. Hold on a minute...I'm trying to connect the dots.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Gee, why could the state POSSIBLY be going broke?

scurvy
scurvy

There needs to be a cap on how much vacation you can carry forward from year to year. That's how the private sector does it. Also, your pension bennies need to be a simple moving average of daily pay over your last 3-5 years of service, not just the last. That's the only way to save California. Otherwise, we're all screwed.

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