The man who boasted California's biggest public pension isn’t giving it up without a fight.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System cut former Vernon city administrator Bruce Malkenhorst’s annual pension from more than $500,000 to $115,000 after he was convicted of misappropriating public funds, and now Malkenhorst is demanding Vernon make up the difference.
Join us at 9 a.m. when we talk with Times reporter Ruben Vives about the 78-year-old Malkenhorst’s novel argument to try and recapture some of the money CalPers said he received improperly.
Vernon now faces a potentially costly legal battle as attorneys face off with the city’s one-time power broker, who was considered for years the highest paid official in the country.
It could turn into a test case for other officials who have seen their hefty pensions cut back by CalPERS.
Malkenhorst's attorneys have already presented hundreds of pages of exhibits as evidence of what he says are the city’s vows to fund his rich pension. In the suit, Malkenhorst describes his pension as a promise from the city based on his “highest earnings at Vernon.” He notes that eight years ago, when CalPERS first raised issues about his pension, the city supported Malkenhorst. That changed last year, he said, when CalPERS finally reduced his pension.
Vernon officials argue Malkenhorst got paid more than enough and isn’t owed anything more from the city.
CalPERS alleges that Vernon improperly boosted Malkenhorst’s retirement benefits, arguing his pension was “illegally based on unpublished pay rates, overtime and an inflated longevity allowance.” Though Malkenhorst held as many as 10 positions during his 29-year tenure in the city government, CalPERS determined that only his pay as city clerk was properly reported for purposes of his pension.
Malkenhorst filed two lawsuits to prevent his state pension from being reduced. He lost both suits but is appealing.