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Nelson on his county pension: “I was presented with only two options”

Fourth District County Supervisor Shawn Nelson called us Thursday afternoon to offer his explanation for his opting into the county’s pension system, which he campaigned on reforming this Spring.

Shortly after taking office, Nelson said that he was presented with a number of forms to fill out associated with his new job and the benefits that go with it which will filed out with days to spare on the deadline for doing so.  Among them, documents for his county pension.  He opted for the full defined benefits plan that allows him to retire at 55 years old with 2.7% of his salary for every year he is an elected county official.

There are two plans at work here, which Chirs Prevatt detailed in his post on Thursday. As a candidate, Nelson had criticism for both of them — the 2.7 @ 55 plan which Nelson criticized because of the young age a county employee can retire, or the hybrid plan, which he said was flawed.  There was a third option that Nelson seemed unaware of — not to participate in the county pension plan at all which is what Supervisor Pat Bates does.

Shawn Nelson is active in his community and coaches youth football

“I was offered two choices,” said Nelson.  “I was never told there was the option not to participate.”  Nelson, who was on his way to youth football practice (and I’m happy to hear he still coaches despite his busy schedule), said he’d be contacted the county’s human resources department on Friday for an explanation and he’ll be contacting Supervisor Pat Bate’s office as well.

Nelson’s lack of knowlege of his options is curious because back in June Norberto Santana, Jr. wrote:

“Under a little-known — and not publicized — state law, each county supervisor has to actually decide to opt into the county’s pension system to get the same benefit most employees do.

I tried to find out Nelson’s pension plans on Monday, but he didn’t return several of my phone calls.”

Nelson’s explanation of “I didn’t know this was a option” doesn’t wash with us as Santana reported this story just after the election. If Nelson had bothered to return any of the Voice of OC’s phone calls, he would have known he could have opted out.  We pointed out the story to him.  “I’m sure there was a story about this but I didn’t see it,” he said.

“I cannot admonish any county employee for not taking advantage of a benefit that is available to them,” said Nelson. “But we do have some issues we need to deal with in regards to pension reform.”

As for opting out of the county’s pension plans, “I still don’t know if that was an option.”

We’ve offered Suprvisor Nelson the opportunity to give us a statement of explanation. Let’s see if he takes us up on this.  Meanwhile, teach those kids to reachblock coach.


  1. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | August 13, 2010

    wow, nearly 24 hours after the first post, not a word from the ankle biters on the Fringe for Fullerton Fanatics site.

  2. Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland August 13, 2010

    And you’re not going to see anything. All their “holding politicians accountable” talk is pure BS.

    If this had been Harry Sidhu or any other politician they don’t like, Bushala and his pals would be screaming from the rafters.

  3. OCNorth OCNorth August 13, 2010

    He took the option that would give him the most money which tells me alot. I think if he had the option in front of him today to not participate he still would have taken the package that he did. I also find it hard to believe that he didn’t read the story by Santana in June. My guess is he was reading everything at that time or his 25 best buddies at the FFFF told him about this during a drink/cigar at the Sky Lounge. OK maybe not the Sky Lounge now.

  4. Mr brown Mr brown August 13, 2010

    Hypocrisy, at it’s worst.

    If he doesn’t opt out or work out a retirement package that best on the consevative credentials he uses, he’s a hypocrit.

    It’s apparently all about him. He fooled many people.

  5. Beckhole Beckhole August 13, 2010

    “Nelson’s lack of knowlege of his pension option is curious” That’s a nice way to put it. He is asking us to believe that although he made public employee pensions his go to issue during the campaign, that he, along with his paid staff and close supporters, were not aware that not a drawing a pension was an option. Nelson taking a pension or not has been the subject of a few blogs and I am certain that Pat Bates was not shy about taking credit for turning the pension down. A more likely scenario is that he decided to take the money and wait and see how it played out. If it became a big deal, as it seems to, he goes to Plan B. In a perfect world someone would have asked him about his intentions during the campaign and have it on film. In hindsight at lest this question seems to be an obvious one to ask at a candidates debate.

  6. Beckhole Beckhole August 13, 2010

    Please forgive my typos

  7. Used to Care Says Used to Care Says August 13, 2010

    Why do I keep reading in the different blogs that Supervisor Bates does not take a pension? Is her election to participate in the 401K program not a retirement? Does the County not pay the full amount as it does for all the executive managers for the County (that’s how I keep reading it in these blogs). Please clarify this for me. Thanks!

    • Chris Prevatt Chris Prevatt August 13, 2010

      All Supes get the 401(a) plan contribution of 8.5%. That is all that Bates takes. She chose to not take the County defined Benefit pension plan on top of the 8.5% 401(a). Moorlach had the ability to do the same thing Bates did in 2006, since he had been elected to a new office (Supervisor), but he did not. He has been in the County Pension Plan since he was appointed Treasurer in 1995.

      Nelson took to additional Defined Benefit plan over and above the 8.5 401(a). To top it off, he took the higher percentage benefit at the lower retirement age.

  8. Do the Math Do the Math August 13, 2010

    If one walks into a bank and tells the teller that you want to purchase a Certificate of Deposit. The teller explains that they have 2 CD’s: One pays 2% interest for one year and the other one pays 4% for a two year period. Who in their right mind would take the 2% when they could get twice that amount? Until the Banks Board of Directors changes the policy to state all CD’s will pay 1%, why continue to beat up those that chose the higher amount. I understand Nelson ran and was elected on his promises to change the system. I voted for the guy. If the guy doesn’t live up to those promises come November I will be changing my vote, but I cant blame him for taking the best option under the current rules. He is not the one who handed over these generous payouts, but he is the one who promised he would work to change it.

  9. Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland August 13, 2010

    You have got to read the 100% unalloyed spin Travis Kiger ladles out at Fringe for Fullerton’s Future:

    According to Travis, Nelson’s choice is all the fault of the county’s 2009 pension reform!! Nelson was powerless to contain his greed and set an example by choosing the defined contribution option!!

    Travis then follows up by saying it doesn’t matter because Nelson never promised he would take advantage of the pension system he was blasting in his campaign!

    I am not making this up. Read it for yourself. Travis ought to be embarrass for his shilling. Hope Travis didn’t take too much time from his job as director of web services at Precept to cook up that load of crock.

  10. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | August 13, 2010

    And with all the scorn Travis has heaped on us I frankly expected a better argument from him.

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