Standing Issue Won’t Cut Kelso Pension Suit Down

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A retired California employee can advance claims that California Prison Receiver J. Clark Kelso spiked his pension by washing his salary through the Administrative Office of the Courts, a judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed Kelso to oversee California’s s prison medical program in 2008. Former state employee Donald Francis now claims that Kelso agreed to join the AOC payroll to get a pension from the California Public Employees Retirement System pension.
     Since his new federal salary counted as his highest year of compensation, Kelso would retire as one of the highest paid CalPERS recipients and would still qualify for lifetime health benefits at taxpayer expense.
     Francis petitioned the Superior Court in Sacramento for a writ of mandate, but Kelso, the CalPERS Board of Administration, the AOC and the California Prison Healthcare Receivership Corp. claimed that Francis lacked standing.
     Judge Michael Kenny found otherwise last week, finding that Francis meets the public interest exemption to the requirement that he have a special interest in the outcome of his lawsuit.
     “In such a case, the petitioner need not show that he or she has any legal or special interest in the result, since it is sufficient that he or she is interested in a citizen in having the laws executed and the duty in question enforced,” Kenny wrote.
     “It is undeniable that issues such as the proper administration of public pension systems, the long-term fiscal viability of such systems, the making of pension benefit determinations with long-term fiscal ramifications with limited or no public accountability, and individual cases of pension ‘spiking’ for high-level government officers, have become matters of critical, and legitimate, public concern,” he added. “In these times of fiscal crisis, the public duty of pension administrators to act in compliance with the law is sharp, and the public need to provide a means of review and accountability when they allegedly fail to do so is weighty.”

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