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Mailbag: Pensioners, not council, are the problem

September 13, 2012

Re. "Mailbag: City transparency," Sept. 11: Retired Costa Mesa police Officer Clay Epperson never ceases to amaze me with his disjointed view of our city and how it spends its tax dollars on lavish salaries and unsustainable pensions. His recent rant has left me speechless.

I wrote about Mr. Epperson back in early 2011. At that time, I brought to light that Mr. Epperson retired at only age 50. After only 28 years service, he received a starting $145,000-a-year lifetime pension, lifetime medical benefits and a generous yearly cost-of-living adjustment — all in retirement.

Since that time, Mr. Epperson's retirement benefits have only increased. He now receives $165,000 a year in retirement and that figure will continue to grow. In a few short years, we will be paying him more than $200,000 a year in retirement. How many Americans receive $165,000 and get to retire at 50? How is this fair to the taxpayer?

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Epperson is the symbol of what is wrong with our system. A system in which the police unions spend hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars to elect who they want to the City Council in exchange for approving absurd contracts that today, make Costa Mesa Police officers the highest paid in Southern California. A corrupt system that continues to increase public sector union salaries, while those of us in the private sector have to reduce our costs to make ends meet. In the private sector, this practice would land folks in jail. In the public sector, it's not only legal, it's rewarded by the unions.

We have to adapt with the times. Mr. Epperson and his union cronies do not. In retiring at only age 50, the taxpayers will be paying Mr. Epperson in retirement longer than he was in the workforce. A sixth-grader can tell you that math is simply not sustainable. My father-in-law recently retired at age 70 after 50 years as a union ironworker. He doesn't receive a fraction of what Mr. Epperson receives at age 50. Something isn't right.

Of course, Mr. Epperson attacks our City Council. He wants to keep this cash cow in place for all of his friends. To his surprise, we actually have a City Council that refused to be bullied by the unions, their private investigators and out-of-town law firms. Mr. Epperson is simply angry because this council hasn't done what most City Council's usually do: give in to the bullying and threats of the police union to get what they want.

Instead of sitting down at the table to negotiate, like our firefighters did, the police union refuses to discuss a reasonable contract and instead continues to spread lies and instill fear in the public. Since they cannot justify these outrageous and exorbitant salaries and benefits, they simply use fear to try and convince you that unless we retire every police officer at 50 and pay them $165,000 a year for life, we will not be safe.

The residents and taxpayers of this city have had it. We are tired of the lies. Tired of the threats and bullying from those who want to continue a broken system that is bankrupting our wonderful town.

I thank Mr. Epperson for his years of service to our city. However, when you are cashing a retirement check for nearly $14,000 each month, maybe you should not complain about who the residents pick to represent them.

Colin McCarthy

Costa Mesa

Editor's note: The writer is a planning commissioner and candidate for City Council.

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