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Commentary: Anti-public safety, or good stewards of tax dollars?

Costa Mesa taxpayers are sending former officer $13,000 a month to have a second career in Idaho. Compensation should be fair to both workers and residents.

August 24, 2013|By Colin McCarthy

Re. "Commentary: I see issues with CMPD hiring," (Aug. 16):

I was surprised to read former Costa Mesa police lieutenant and Idaho resident Allen Huggins' recent piece about city politics in the Daily Pilot. Usually, when a former police officer chimes in from 1,300 miles away to sling mud at his former employer, there is more to the story. In this case, there is.

Mr. Huggins takes issue with the fact that a majority of Costa Mesa's City Council is working to overhaul outrageous and unsustainable salary and benefits packages that are slowly bankrupting cities like Costa Mesa. Rather than address the merits of the issue, Mr. Huggins takes a swipe at our elected leaders, who are working to address this problem.

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Here are a few facts the readers should know about Mr. Huggins. Mr. Huggins retired earlier this year from the Costa Mesa Police Department. His total compensation (salary and benefits) was $259,000, which included a $14,000 cash payout for accrued leave.

In "retirement," Mr. Huggins will initially make roughly $158,000 per year, and will get a standard 2% yearly cost of living increase. I put quotations around the word "retirement." Mr. Huggins is not retired. In fact, as his letter mentions, he has moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where he owns a successful business.

Taxpayers are literally paying Mr. Huggins $158,000 per year to have a second career in Idaho. Who wouldn't love to live in Idaho and wait for a $13,000 taxpayer check to come in the mailbox every month?

This is an unfortunate byproduct of a system that allows police officers to retire way too early, in the prime of their lives--.a system that Mr. Huggins and his police union bought and paid for through years of political contributions and campaign attacks in City Council races. Now, Mr. Huggins is attacking those who want to fix this broken system?

The Costa Mesa Police Department promoted Mr. Huggins to captain literally 14 months before he retired. This allowed Mr. Huggins to add an additional $10,000 per year to his pension. Over the life of that pension, Costa Mesa residents will pay hundreds of thousands of extra dollars to Mr. Huggins for a promotion he had for only one year.

Mr. Huggins goes on to tell us that he is a Republican, and therefore we are to assume that he is on the side of fiscal reform.

What do political parties have to do with run-away public sector salary and benefits?

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