QUINCY — A police chief here who retired four years ago has been named as the latest case in an ongoing investigation of pension spiking, officials in the state’s retirement system have confirmed.
Former Quincy Police Chief Bill Gonzales, who retired in 2009, received a late pay raise and other benefits that were improperly counted towards the pension he would receive, auditors at the Department of Retirement Systems concluded Oct. 4.
The state is seeking $5,506 from Gonzales to compensate for the overpayments, and officials project they will save $123,826 in coming years due to his reduced benefits. The pay raise and benefits had been supported four years ago by the Quincy City Council as a retirement incentive for Gonzales to leave the department as part of an administrative overhaul.
On Friday, Mayor Jim Hemberry declined comment on the state auditors’ conclusion until discussions with Gonzales and city officials take place.
Gonzales and others were spotlighted earlier this year in an Associated Press series about a separate state pension system for law enforcement officers and firefighters. The LEOFF-1 retirement system used by Gonzales is unique because it determines a retiree’s pension based on a workers final salary. Other systems calculate a pension by averaging the person’s salary over time.
In 2009, the Quincy City Council voted 4-2 to approve an incentive agreement that stipulated Gonzales would receive a 4 percent raise about a month from his retirement date and then six months of base pay, which was $5,846 per month, the Quincy Valley Post-Register reported at the time. Gonzales retired July 31 of that year.
Dave Nelsen, the legal and legislative services manager for the state retirement system, said that Gonzales’ 2009 raise was clearly a retirement incentive and should not be counted toward pensions under state rules, the AP reported. He also said the city was improperly counting money that was paid in lieu of medical benefits, but he doesn’t believe anyone was trying to take advantage of the system.
“There’s no sense of any sort of intent to hide things or misrepresent or mischaracterize,” Nelsen said.
Gonzales will still have an annual pension exceeding $46,000. It was previously about $56,000.
The AP series identified cases in which veteran workers got pay raises shortly before retirement, helping boost their pensions. Along with the Gonzales money, state officials have previously identified about $160,000 in past overpayments and future benefit reductions from three other pension-spiking cases in Lakewood.