The term of San Diego mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer's quick pick to be chief of police, succeeding the controversial Bill Lansdowne, may be limited to four years, based on records of the city's retirement system.
According to a pension-board document, assistant police chief Shelley Zimmerman opted to participate in the city's so-called Deferred Retirement Option Plan as of March 2 of last year.
Known as DROP, it is a controversial retirement program, which critics — including many Faulconer backers— have blasted as double-dipping.
The program allows an employee to retire officially but continue working for five years, during which he or she receives a salary and a pension. The pension builds up in a separate account that can't be collected until the person retires.
An executive in the human-resources department of the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System (SDCERS) says that the employee is required to retire after five years unless there was some defect in his or her original DROP contract.
"You can't just decide not to retire" once you have signed up, says this source.
The police department confirms that Zimmerman signed up for DROP last year but won't say more. Unless somebody tells us something different, we assume that Zimmerman will only be around four years.
Reached by phone, retirement-system spokeswoman Christina Di Leva said she could not immediately confirm that Zimmerman had taken the DROP option memorialized in the board documents. She added that the five-year period is a mandatory part of the program but could not immediately say whether the city might be able to come up with a workaround in Zimmerman's case.
Update 1:20 p.m. After looking into the matter, Di Leva stated in an email: "Chief Zimmerman entered DROP on March 2, 2013 and will exit DROP on March 1, 2018. DROP is irrevocable and as such, a DROP participant must exit DROP at the end of the designated period. A DROP retiree may return to work as a provisional employee for a maximum of 90 days per year."
According to a personal statement of economic interest Zimmerman filed yesterday with the city clerk's office, her only reportable asset is stock valued at between $10,000 and $100,000 in cell-phone giant Qualcomm, Inc., which she acquired in March 1994.
co-reported with Don Bauder