Vincent Farnsworth 6:31 p.m., Dec. 4
SDCERS Board Member Who Spoke Up, Pressed for Full Disclosure, Jettisoned by Mayor
William J. (Bill) Sheffler, the board member of the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System who pressed the staff and his colleagues for transparency and full disclosure, has been dropped from the board. He got a call from Jay Goldstone, the City's chief operating officer, five days ago and told that the mayor wanted to try different people on the board. Sheffler, who heads Sheffler Consulting Actuaries, had served four years. He regularly gave information to the Reader and at least one other publication that often didn't use his name, knowing that he might be considered a renegade. "It was an issue of independence," says Sheffler. The mayor "has a problem with independent board members." Explains Sheffler, "Pension boards are different from water boards or park boards. You don't have a duty to the people who appointed you. You have a duty to the participants in the plan. The mere fact that the mayor wants other people in there implies to me that he wants his own people in there to represent his interests, but his interests are not the same as the interests of the retirement plan and the interests of the plan participants." Sheffler notes that "a huge payment to the plan is due in 2010; I don't know if he wants to see the payment reduced so the City can afford it, or increased so he can have leverage against the unions." Sheffler was preparing information on a board member, John Thomson (whose term is expiring), who has represented the firefighters. "He never voted against allowing a disability pension for [firefighters]. I was in the initial stages of a study to prove that statistically." Sheffler notes that Mayor Sanders is the former police chief: "He still may have this attitude that whoever I appoint will do things the way I want them done." Sheffler says that during his tenure, "I said what was appropriate and necessary and didn't give a damn whose ox I was goring. I think the mayor understood that, and [such an attitude] doesn't make for a good political ally." Sheffler knew that other board members didn't like his outspokenness, but doesn't know if they communicated this to the mayor. Several years ago, the mayor had asked him to resign over a completely different issue, but Sheffler had refused.