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Orinda bears brunt of Nowicki backlash

By Jonathan Morales
Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 3:22 pm in Moraga, Orinda.

An Orinda official told me today City Hall has been bombarded with phone calls, e-mails and visits from people angry about Moraga-Orinda Fire Chief Pete Nowicki’s pension after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. One City Hall visitor even took to yelling in the lobby, apparently.

Whether he likes it or not (or deserves it or not), Nowicki has become the face of pension reform and a target for those who have seen their own retirement funds plunge amid the recession to vent their frustration.

It’s worth pointing out that Nowicki’s pension is funded by the Contra Costa County Employee’s Retirement Association. Money for CCCERA pensions comes from contributions from the employees themselves and the employer, in this case Moraga-Orinda Fire District. And while the MOFD is funded by taxpayer dollars, Nowicki’s pension is not part of any city’s budget and out of city officials’ control.

It’s also worth pointing out that, as the WSJ article said and we have pointed out at the Times, Nowicki played by the rules. Employees covered under the CCCERA plan are allowed to “spike” their salary by converting accruals into cash. CCCERA’s Web site lays out exactly how it’s done.

Finally, it’s also interesting that this outrage comes now, despite articles written by myself, Paul Thissen and Times’ columnist Dan Borenstein on this issue for months. Orinda may be bearing the burnt of the backlash today, but Nowicki’s retirement, pension and rehiring has been public knowledge since at least January.

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