LOS ANGELES – In response to action taken by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) after an audit found significant pension overpayments to former high-level Vernon officials, Senator Kevin de Leòn (D-Los Angeles) today submitted a letter to the state’s Attorney General requesting an investigation into the findings of that audit to ascertain whether criminal or other sanctions are warranted against those former and current public officials.
Two grossly overpaid former officials with the City of Vernon learned that their pensions were being drastically cut thanks to the results of that audit, which was released today after having been requested by Senator De León, who has been leading the charge for change in the city that has become synonymous with corruption.
The audit found that Vernon improperly boosted the retirement benefits of nearly two dozen top employees. In particular, the audit zeroed in on the poster boy of pension abuse, Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., who receives the biggest pension in the state at $545,000 per year, and Eric Fresch. Malkenhorst will see his pension reduced to a still astounding $115,000 per year and Fresch will have his eliminated entirely.
"For decades, these grifters scammed the system, and today the system finally struck back," said Senator De León. "It isn't enough that they forfeit their ill-gotten gains," he said. "They must be punished to deter other scam artists from ripping off taxpayers in the future."
Senator De León’s anti-corruption crusade in Vernon began last Summer as he sought a way to save some 50,000 jobs in the city that were threatened by a disincorporation effort, while also seeking ways to effectively institute lasting reform in the scandal-plagued town.
To date, Vernon has instituted or is pursuing all of the reforms required by Senator De León when he brokered the disincorporation compromise. Undoing these pension abuses adds to the list. Among the key reforms already instituted are:
· Council salary and benefits reduced; Term limits added
· New Councilmembers elected in fair, monitored elections
· Housing Commission established and new housing policy adopted
· Independent Reform Monitor created
· Open bidding process for city service contracts established
· Conflict of Interest management developed with mandatory ethics training
Senator De Leòn said he will continue his vigilance to ensure all agreed upon reform measures are completed. Next up is a thorough audit of Vernon’s finances by the Bureau of State Audits. That audit is expected within the month.