Ten minutes into the July 8 meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, councilmember Carl DeMaio issued a challenge to David Wescoe, chief operating officer for the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System: Provide the City with all financial data on the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) or expect a subpoena ordering that he appear before the committee to answer any questions.
“It has come to my office’s attention that the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System refuses to provide the City with base data to conduct an analysis on the budgetary impact and the possible violation of cost-neutrality of the [Deferred Retirement Option Program],” said DeMaio during committee comment.
“In the next 30 days, if the [San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System] does not release the data so that the City…can carry out a thoughtful and comprehensive budgetary and fiscal analysis on the [Deferred Retirement Option Program], I ask that we subpoena Mr. Wescoe and have him come to this committee and explain why the plan administrator refuses to comply with requests from the plan sponsor.”
Implemented in 1997, the Deferred Retirement Option Program allows city employees to receive a lump-sum payment if they choose to enroll and work beyond their retirement age. In recent months, the City has tried to find a way to end the controversial program, a decision that would slash the growing pension deficit and save the City between $250 and $350 million.
“We cannot make good decisions without good data,” continued DeMaio at the Wednesday-morning meeting. “It is an obligation, it is a fiduciary obligation…to release data when requested by a plan sponsor. If we don’t have a resolution in the next 30 days, this committee should take a leading role in demanding the data be provided.”
A brief silence ensued after chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, Tony Young, asked if any other committee members wished to comment. Councilmember Marti Emerald then notified Young that she had something to say.
“I would like to know Mr. DeMaio’s source because all top management here in the City of San Diego has said that actually [representatives of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System] has been absolutely willing to provide data, they just don’t believe that it is their role to provide the actuarial services that the City should be paying for. So, I’d like to know your source,” said Emerald, glancing over to her immediate right where DeMaio sat.
“I think you’re aware that your source has been challenged by credible top management at the City,” added Emerald, “who have all said that [representatives of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System] have been absolutely forthcoming on providing raw data. So, I’d like to know your source.”
“My source is this,” answered DeMaio in a rushed and excited tone, “if the data has been provided, bring it to my office. Guess what, the data has not been provided. The source is -- the data has not been provided.”
One day later, this correspondent called the office of the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System and asked to speak with chief operating officer Wescoe to see whether he would like to respond to DeMaio’s claims. Wescoe’s receptionist, in a professional and courteous manner, said he was “unavailable.”
Wescoe has since failed to respond.