Big five-column photo of Moraga-Orinda fire Chief Pete Nowicki in Monday's Wall Street Journal - though it might not be the kind of celebrity he welcomes. The 51-year-old retiree is fast becoming the poster child for "pension spiking," that is, making an already generous pension even larger via a pay raise granted just before retirement. Nowicki's boost, as Contra Costa Times columnist Dan Borenstein has reported, came in the form of cashed-in vacation time and other compensation. The raise increased his annual pension from $185,000 to $241,000. Local outrage and vows to reform the system followed the revelation's wake.
As Nowicki rightly pointed out, "I did not negotiate these rules." Public sector pension plans allow for such extravagance. Neither is he alone. The retired chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, as Borenstein also noted, turned his $221,000 annual salary into a yearly pension starting at $284,000. Meanwhile, as the Moraga-Orinda Fire District Board of Directors looks for a new fire chief, Nowicki's working as a temporary fill-in. At $14,700 a month. (Plus pension.)
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