Home CONFIRE $100k CONFIRE Pension Club Doesn’t Tell Entire Story

$100k CONFIRE Pension Club Doesn’t Tell Entire Story

by ECT

There is a brand new list floating around from the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association highlighting the $100k pension club claiming its using June 1, 2012 data. At first glance, the list appears to be significantly damaging to CONFIRE, but upon further review, it’s grossly inaccurate and lacks any sort of explanation of how the numbers came about.

What this so called pension list from CoCo Tax is doing is using fire chiefs and administration as the prime examples to create an emotional reaction to attack firefighters as a whole. This is not right as its a dirty trick by using a select few to claim there is a big problem across the board when that is simply not the case.  Due to size of the document, I guess they also did not want to put the position or year retired next to a name.

This is such a complex issue and problem that this simple list is misleading because you are taking different years retired, different agreements, different rules and combining it into one. You can’t logically tie it all into one list and it make sense. For example, this list does not include what each person contributed to their retirement which is likely a significant number.

When you look at the list and compare it to our guys who are now working, it does not take into account the pay reductions (10%) they just agreed to. It doesn’t take into consideration that they contribute 26% from each paycheck into their pension.

No one is disputing there is a pension problem with a select few who took advantage of the system. No one is disputing there is one today with a select few who will be retiring shortly, but it’s not an across the board problem like CoCO Tax is making it out to be all in the name of forcing pension reform.  Just because there is a problem with older pension agreements that is effecting us today, does not mean those kinks have not been worked out and will reduce costs in the future with new hires, it will just take time to work the old ones out of the system by the time the new ones come onto the system.

If anything, this list is a perfect example about why pension reform will do little to fix today’s financial problem because the top guy (a chief) retired in 1993 and number two (also a chief)  retired in 1998.  The firefighter who just retired in February of 2012 is not even in the top 50–he is listed at number 54.

Obviously something has been done to correct what used to be a big problem, it just takes time to correct itself. Across the board, there have been negotiations, there has been solutions, and there has been fixes.

With that said, those who have retired need to be written off as a bad contract as opposed to attacking the average firefighter working today to protect the community. I can think of no greater analogy than a bad baseball contract such as Barry Zito. The San Francisco Giants are stuck with him until his contract expires—in the fire departments case, they come off the books when they die.

The problem this list has is it does not explain the back story on each individual on it or the agreement each of them had and their contributions to the system. They are just being bean counters. Who pension spiked? Who abused the system? It does not include the scenarios that played out over the last few decades.  That information is missing and instead they take a broad approach.

When we talk about pension reform, we also need to remember the average firefighter is no longer working 30+ years on average. The average firefighter begins their career at age 27-28. If he was to work 30 years  he would not be able to retire until he is 57–mostly likely a new fireman retires around 50 which gives him just 23 years and is not eligible for a full pension.

The point I am trying to make is anyone can create a list, but if there is no background of how the numbers or agreements were produced, what is the point? Anyone can combine multiple agreements, multiple decades into a single list, but that is misleading because a firefighter who retires in 1993 has a different agreement than Mr. Firefighter who just retired in February of this year.

I would encourage CoCo Tax to be a bit more honest with their lists they create for political purposes so an honest debate can occur.  I would also ask them to stop making this an “across the board problem” and figure out just where their problem is and get down to specific than providing long misleading lists.

More to the point, Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack just attended a Fire Board meeting where three board members/supervisors told them why pension reform as a whole had not occurred and how State, Federal and IRS laws limit their ability even if they wanted to make changes–and this is even when the union agrees with the County!

Instead of trying to attack pensions as a whole, CoCo Tax would be better off working with the County, the firefighters Union and other stakeholders to find a solution that will allow a law change to ensure real change can occur. Instead of fighting, it’s time to work together so everyone can make the needed changes that ensures services will be available in the future as opposed to skeleton crews on scene of an emergency.


Here is a list of what a firefighter would get based off years of service.

  • 1 year = 3 % of pay
  • 2 years = 6 % of pay
  • 3 years = 9 % of pay
  • 4 years = 12 % of pay
  • 5 years = 15 % of pay
  • 6 years = 18 % of pay
  • 7 years = 21 % of pay
  • 8 years = 24 % of pay
  • 9 years = 27 % of pay
  • 10 years = 30 % of pay
  • 11 years = 33 % of pay
  • 12 years = 36 % of pay
  • 13 years = 39 % of pay
  • 14 years= 42 % of pay
  • 15 years = 45 % of pay
  • 16 years = 48 % of pay
  • 17 years = 51 % of pay
  • 18 years = 54 % of pay
  • 20 years = 57 % of pay
  • 21 years = 60 % of pay
  • 22 years = 63 % of pay
  • 23 years = 66 % of pay
  • 24 years = 69 % of pay
  • 25 years = 72 % of pay
  • 26 years = 75 % of pay
  • 27 years = 78 % of pay
  • 28 years = 81 % of pay
  • 29 years = 84 % of pay
  • 30 years = 87 % of pay
  • 31 years + = 90 % of pay

One could just look at the Brentwood Press where Rick Lemyre provided a fantastic example:

A fire captain earning $5,000 per month and hired at the age 28 (the average age at which public safety employees earning [email protected] are hired, according to a study by CalPERS, the state’s largest public employee retirement organization) and retiring at 50 would receive a pension of $3,300 per month, or $39,600 per year. The benefit also provides a maximum 3-percent annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

By working until age 58, the same captain could retire after 30 years of employment, earning as much as 90 percent of his final year’s salary. According to CalPERS, about 34 percent of all public safety employees, including police and prison guards, reach 30 years of service. One percent reach 30 years of service by age 50.

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JimSimmons42 Aug 2, 2012 - 11:46 am

I think you jumped off into the deep end on this one. Not sure I see your point. That is a lot of $100k+ pensions from CoCo Tax. What does their paid contributions have to do with what they receive?

Also, I see you used 1993 and 1998 as the top 2, but the 3 following them are pretty recent. This is a confusing issue to me. I support the firefighters, but something must be done on their pensions.

burkforoakley Aug 2, 2012 - 12:33 pm

Jim, your post lets me know I may have not be clear enough. Please allow me to outline once again.

1. First and foremost the Firefighters are funding their own pensions, but unlike the private sector, their funding is MANDATORY, so they have to contribute 26 PERCENT of their salary! This is primarily done so that they are allowed to retire earlier than a typical employee that does not have such a physically demanding job or one that constantly exposes employees to the cumulative effects of dangerous, toxic and harmful environments. In other words they can work in the profession and then get out before costly (tax free) workers comp related issues take them out. As you might imagine their job is extremely physical which takes a cumulative toll on their bodies. Statistics clearly point out that after age 50 work related injuries drastically climb in this profession. This ultimately saves you and I (the taxpayer) huge costs.

2. I wanted to point out that the list the taxpayers were providing left out some of the most crucial factors. Like time worked! If an employee started at 28 (which is the average age of hire) and left at 50 they only get credited 22 years of service credit-which under their retirement formula (3%) works out to 66 percent of earnings-NOT the 100 percent that the taxpayers association and certain members of the CCTimes would have you believe. Again, this is a retirement that THEY fund!

3. Equally as important is the fact that Rank is left off of this 100k club list. Remember just like a CEO of a private company is compensated for their upper management skills, so it is in other careers. Many on the list are Fire Chiefs and Administration.

4. I am not sure I think that any worker should have to live below their means just because they work hard throughout their career. And let’s face it, in the Bay Area a 100k salary or pension (before taxes) is not really extravagant. And just because someone retires doesn’t mean their bills or house payments go away. Try applying for a mortgage or loan in our county with anything less than 100k as documented income.

5. Lastly, I did not make the list up-I merely looked it up and copied it form the taxpayer’s association. That is why it is important to see where the problem is. You see, they want to complain about the formula (3 @ 50) but as you pointed out the top earner was a Fire Chief that retired in 1993. This raises doubt in my mind about the credibility of the list AND the numbers.

Three things come to mind and should have us all asking questions;

1) there was not an enhanced safety (3 at 50) back in 1993.

2) While the individual listed was the Fire Chief it is hard to imagine his salary being anywhere near what is posted-remember it was 1993!

3) With all of the union bashing and innuendo about the “Unions” driving this tax, the list is counter to this when it features Chiefs, Assistant Chiefs and Admin., who are in fact “Management” and not represented by the union.

JimSimmons42 Aug 2, 2012 - 5:46 pm

Thank you for the reply. You have given me something to look into and may just have changed my position from my earlier comment today. I trust your information so I appreciate it. I may have just been confused on the list because its unclear on some items you pointed out. I do not agree with them using administration as a reason to push for pension reform, I now understand that better.

BenSmith Aug 2, 2012 - 7:30 pm

Well said Mike

Mr.Wilson Aug 2, 2012 - 11:48 am

This is one stupid arguement the author is making.

BobB Aug 2, 2012 - 12:46 pm

Dave Roberts? Anyone? Where is our expert?

Dawn Phlynt Aug 2, 2012 - 1:17 pm

I think he is headed for Utah! Ohhhhh, you were looking for Dave Roberts the other self-proclaimed expert. Not sure where he has run off to, after what he pulled off in East County.

I have to disagree with Mr. Wilson. I think the “author” is making some valid points and adding needed clarification.

EastCountyReader Aug 2, 2012 - 4:35 pm


I just read some bizarre comment from a guy named Ken Hambreck on this subject. One thing for sure, he is DEFINATELY NOT an expert! He sounds like one of those guys that runs around without insurance because he is never going to really need it. That is one scary dude. What foolishness, but coming from the local clown factory it wasn’t all that surprising. The same guy puts his stock in Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack. I guess you can fool some of the people ALL of the time.

It looks like Bill Gram Reefer really attracts some “unique” people. Does anyone take him seriously? What a joke!

Jill_Thompson55 Aug 2, 2012 - 4:35 pm

Did Vince Wells and the other union thugs put you up to this EastCountyToday? This is really a one sided pro-union piece and shame on you for trying to pass it along as fact. Vince Wells, Gill Guerrerro and others continue to use scare tactics with the threat of closing down stations. That one person said firefighters give up $500 a month with the 10% cut, if the money is not there, then they should give up another $500 per month and reduce their pensions more.

The pension list you attack is all voters need to know going forward because the explanation doesn’t matter, just what the final numbers are. You have been found out eastcountytoday, how much is CONFIRE, ECCFPD, Local 1230 paying you to pretend to be nuteral? Please be honest with your readers. Same goes for how much Frazier, Romick, Montgomery, Piepho, Glover and the rest of the people you kiss butt to. I am sure you make a nice living off of carrying their water.

burkforoakley Aug 2, 2012 - 5:09 pm

Not sure I understand the scare tactic claim when East County said it would close stations if Measure S failed and it in fact did. They also had layoffs and most, if not all the scare tactics claims by your friends over at CoCoTax and Halfway to Concord have been proven to be fibbers. Your numbers and statement about giving up more seems pretty ignorant to me. Go take Firefighting 101 and get back to me if you think they should give up more.

As for those fire departments and local 1230 and many others you listed… I really did wish they paid me. I’d make a comfortable living. Maybe I should ask if they would sponsor my site to appease you and report back what they say.

Barbara DuMont Aug 2, 2012 - 5:10 pm

“Vince Wells, Gill Guerrerro and others continue to use scare tactics with the threat of closing down stations.”

Just want to comment on this statement. Scare Tactics???? All you nayers said that the threat of closing ECC fire stations was a scare tactic. Well, out of 8-9 stations we are down to 3, manned by 3 firefighters. And come June, we may need to close another.

Yep scare tactics.

EastCountyReader Aug 2, 2012 - 6:51 pm

Here is a news flash for Jill;

You spewed;

“The Supervisors and Union are to blame, not CoCo Tax and making accusations about the numbers.”

Really the union is to blame? How so? For doing their job? For putting out fires, saving lives, and protecting property? And how is the Board of Supervisors to blame? By giving you an opportunity to exercise your democratic freedom? For giving you the opportunity to pick your level of service? For giving you an opportunity to VOTE? (you can pick as many as you want).

Geeeeesh, pretty stupid logic Jill.

I am a Republican and I support this message!

JimSimmons42 Aug 2, 2012 - 5:49 pm

I may not agree with Vince Wells or the others, but not sure how you can say they lied with what is now an on-going problem in East County.

As for attacking Mike, not sure what your point is because he has also attacked each one of them as well as promoted them on occasion. As far as I see it, he calls it down the middle most of the time which is more than I can say for other news sources. No one is going to agree 100% of the time.

Jill_Thompson55 Aug 2, 2012 - 6:11 pm


I got my information from looking at the list provided by Contra Costa Taxypayers Association who looks out for the taxpayer to make sure that the unions stop stealing our money. Then I looked at eastcountytodays post and its like Bryan Montgomery all over again which eastcounytoday should know something about stealing from taxpayers and covering it up since he lives in Oakley. This site is pretty hypocritical and appears to be a democrat supported think tank.

EastCountyReader Aug 2, 2012 - 4:57 pm

@ Jill,
“Union thugs”? It sounds to me like you are drinking someone’s kook-aid. Have you been wading in BGR’s shallow pool? Maybe you should loosen your hat a few notches. In case you missed it, this is not the 1950’s and union members are not thugs. They are Firemen, Policemen, Sheriffs, Construction workers, Safeway employees and even District Attorneys. (you know, the people that bail you out of trouble when you do stupid things).
The real fact is that good men like Vince Wells and Gill Guerrero tried to warn you of what DID happen. That Jill is NOT a scare tactic, but most likely it was lost on you. Time to put down the kook-aid.

The one person that you were talking about, that said the firefighters gave up $500.00 a month was probably wrong. It is likely more like $700.00 to $1000.00 a month, but it really doesn’t matter to someone as indignant as you now does it? Because you are probably not willing to give up a measly 75.00 a year to do YOUR part. So it is ok for them to “contribute” to fixing the shortfall, but not you? Nice. This makes me think you may be more of a “thug”.

I love the fact that you don’t really give a rats behind about the possible inaccuracy about the “numbers”, you simply want your pound of flesh. It would be hard to argue that this makes YOU sound just like a thug. Are you neutral? I think if you want to act like you are, you should learn how to spell it first. That would be a great place to start. Then you might actually sound educated when you are attempting to beat up on those that protect you.
For the record, I am not Burk. I am sure he will be happy to defend his statements much better than I ever could. In case you haven’t noticed, he is very good at it.

Jill_Thompson Aug 2, 2012 - 5:17 pm


Use your real name and then I will reply to you next time. You sound like a firefighter or maybe even Vince Wells himself. Why should I have to give up $75 a year when these people make a nice salary and a nice pension for sitting around all day and responding to 3% fire calls and the rest of the time watching AMR do most of the work. Maybe supervisor Piepho was right, we should do less with less to prove it can be done like it is currently being done in East County with half the stations. The world didn’t end! It was clever of her to read the Brentwood Press article as if insurance companies would react that fast to station closures. Maybe Island Joes had some problems or claims filed to cause their increase in insurance, That is one out of how many businesses in East County? Surly, staiton closures did not have any effect on insurance rates. The Supervisors and Union are to blame, not CoCo Tax and making accusations about the numbers. Goodbye

Barbara DuMont Aug 2, 2012 - 5:37 pm

Good god! where do these people come from and get their information?

Barbara DuMont Aug 2, 2012 - 7:12 pm

Need anything else be said. She got her information from the Contra Costa Taxpayers Assn!!!

Vince Wells Aug 2, 2012 - 9:33 pm


I don’t feel the need to respond as a ghost writer at all. I am a fire captain/paramedic who works at station 13 in Martinez on C shift if you need me. I live in Walnut Creek. If you are ever traveling through the neighborhood and are caught up in an emergency on my shift and in my area, I will be the one in charge of mitigating it. Trust me, we meet those that are very happy and thankful for the services we provide, and sometimes the person we are working on or assisting is not very receptive. These blogs are no different. If you feel that fire services are not needed, then that is your right. Vote no as I am sure will will if you live in the district. All one has to do is turn on the news to see if fire fighters are needed or not. It is not rocket science. If you live in an apartment for example, and the person that lives below you falls a sleep with their cigarette in their bed and no one comes to put it out. Your apartment will catch fire too. In fact they will keep burning until there is nothing left to burn, or until the fire gets put out. Trust me, your fire extinguisher will not put out your entire apartment. You can apply this scenario to many situations. Like the car fire in the parking garage, or the grass fire that runs up a hill and gets to a house. You see, fire gets bigger if no one puts them out. Now, you feel we watch AMR take care of medicals all day. Can AMR cut someone out of a vehicle that they are trapped in? Can they bring someone up a cliff if they drove their car or bicycle off the road. Can they put out a fire that occurrs in a vehicle accident so they can get to the patient. Can they perform CPR, start IV’s, carry a 300lb patient down stairs, and all the equipment at the same time?
Everyone that knows me, knows that I am reasonable. You are either unreasonable, have a personal agenda, or are uneducated.
If your are uneducated, I ask that you come do a ride along. If you are one of the other two, my consultant says you are a waste of my time! I will put you in the no column!

EastCountyReader Aug 2, 2012 - 6:40 pm


Really, threats now? There is that thug mentality again. The only reason you are looking for my name would be so you can attempt to attack me, rather than the facts. Sorry Jill, but those are not the rules and you my dear haven’t earned any special privileges.

However, thanks for the compliments regarding me sounding like a Firefighter or Vince Wells. I do think Firefighters are worthy of a great deal respect and Mr. Wells does a fine job from what I can see.

So you ask why should you give up 75.00? Here is a simple answer. Because your PROPERTY TAXES which make up all of the funding for Fire Services have been REDUCED for 3 years straight. Simple economics dictates that not only have you saved more than 75.00 but the fire department has lost far more than that in revenue. Pretty simple! In most cases voters/homeowners/taxpayers are seeing hundreds and in many cases thousands in reductions. That means the TAXPAYER is paying a LOT less in taxes and yet the services have NOT been reduced-yet. Let me ask you a question; how long do you think the budget could have stayed balanced or how long do you think their financial reserves could hold up when it is a FACT that WE are not maintaining the funding that they rely on for operational costs. It doesn’t matter really matter what “public” service we are talking about, with one monumental exception; The fire department is the only one that operates entirely from property tax money! If you paid attention, read any of the material available or watched ANY of the hearings you would know this because it was all explained very clearly. It is FACT, not my “opinion”.

As far as your argument goes about what types of calls the fire department responds to, I think you have a major misunderstanding about emergency services in general (be it police/fire or ems). They are an insurance policy. So you pay for them, whether you are using them or not.

Do you think you can just pay for your car or homeowners insurance on the single day you need it? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get more work or “product” out of your insurance on the days that you don’t have to use them? Well, you can and do, with the fire department. Consider it a bonus….because if you want them to stay in the firehouse, guess what…you would just get LESS service and slower emergency responses for medical calls. Is that really what you want?

Once again I don’t think you were paying attention. East county is a ticking time bomb. Just because major disaster hasn’t happened yet, give it time Jill. It has only been thirty days. I don’t need to be a fireman to know it will happen. You get that? It will happen no matter how deeply your head is buried in the sand.

You made comments regarding Gill Guerrero. Did you hear his testimony earlier this week? Someone has already died in East county as a result of the station closures and delayed response times.
That is fact. For the person that died, the world did end. Not pretty is it?
Want to keep going a few more rounds, because I can knock down your innuendos all fricken day. All that happens is that we educate anyone reading this exchange. That works for me, but not so much for you.
As a matter of FACT, I had my insurance person out to my home two weeks ago. The agent (state farm), has been watching this fiasco unfold and specifically said, people are fools to think fire station closures will not DIRECTLY affect their rates. State Farm and the others are in the business of risk and numbers….close stations and rates go up. How foolish do you have to be to deny the connection? It is called common sense and for you to make a ridiculous argument to the contrary also helps people form an opinion about where your head is at.

Yep, all about blame with someone like you. I guess that is why I side with the firefighters. They are about solutions and dealing with situations that are everything but normal. They are often at their best when you are at your worst. Thanks for being a fine example of what being at your worst is all about.

Frank S Aug 2, 2012 - 7:21 pm

Well said EastCountyReader and Mike. I think pointing out Gill G. before and after is a huge reason of how to attack the opponents of the CONFIRE parcel tax. I am sure East County will provide many other incidents up until November.

This Jill person, whoever she really is, makes firefighters out to be the Rodney Dangerfields of the County. Shame on you Jill.

Bob Aug 2, 2012 - 6:45 pm

I’m with ya, Barbara.

I guess if Jim Jones can get 900 people to drink poison kool-aid, CoCoTax can get a few to repeat their talking points non-stop and then vote against their own safety.

I’m sorry, but if people think fire fighters just sit around all day they are more than out of the loop.

Calling fire fighters thugs and then judging district readiness and overall safety by what has happened in 30 days?


Now the Supervisors and the Union are to blame for the economic collapse that has reduced revenues by some 34%??? Keeping in mind, again, that had housing values not collapsed and only remained flat for the last 5 years we are not having this discussion or are we in this predicament.

How many times has anyone seen CCTPA acknowledge this factor?

The biggest hurdle between now and Nov for ConFire will be overcoming public ignorance as CCTPA continues to try to force this brand of social darwinism on the unknowing.

Strong fire/EMS services are needed to protect the weak, the elderly and the injured. The system was never designed for AMR to take up that task by themselves. AMR is not a cheap solution or alternative either. These are not my opinions. You can get these statements from AMR themselves.

To attempt to force anything of the sort is to make a conscious decision to pinch pennies at the cost of human lives. That, at it’s core, is what the CCTPA is doing here. That is what they have done in ECCFPD and there has been loss of life as a result.

Sound dramatic? It should. Because it’s reality of what we’re dealing with here.

EastCountyReader Aug 2, 2012 - 7:16 pm

@ Bob,

BGR must buy his kook aid by the gallon and there are plenty of short yellow bus window licking CCTPA members to lap it up. Just check out his site…. Ken Hambrick sits at the back of the bus.

Frank S Aug 2, 2012 - 7:21 pm

What is BGR? Who is Ken Hambrick?

BenSmith Aug 2, 2012 - 7:18 pm

Great information. Its a shame someone is in la-la land to take this off topic.

Vince Wells Aug 2, 2012 - 9:09 pm

Interesting reading. I think the original article pointed out that there were details missing from the county top retirement earner’s list. If one actually stood back and thought about it and if they were reasonable, you can only agree with the context of the article. You may still have an opinion about the facts, but a reasonable person could not ignore them.
For example, you look at the list and look at the retirements of the top 5 and are not aware of the fact that none of them are rank and file, (who are the ones who staff the fire stations and who would be laid off) and voted accordingly, you based a potential life and death decision on not enough information. I believe that was the point Mike was making. How many years did the top earner work? What was their rank? Did they have all of the spiking components available to them? Did they maximize them? How old were they when they retired? Most of the people at the top of the list are not represented by any union. They are not the ones who will be laid off if the tax fails. Yet it is their salaries that get brought up on the blogs all the time. In Contra Costa Fire, there are 252 fire fighter positions. We have one Chief, two Assistant Chiefs. We have 11 Battalion Chiefs. If you look at the list, you will see that the majority of those that are on the top of the list are from the ranks of the 14 Chiefs, not the 252 line personnel.

Julio-Antioch Aug 3, 2012 - 6:15 pm

The Supes keep saying we cannot do this or that due to the IRS. Since I never believe anything they say I really would like to look at the IRS stuff they are talking about.

Can anyone enlighten me?

Julio-Antioch Aug 5, 2012 - 11:11 am

Thak you all for your response! Delete.

Comments are closed.