City Treasurer’s added duties – hotel audits – preserve retirement benefits

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The addition of hotel audits to the regular duties of City Treasurer Laura Parisi qualifies the service for retirement benefits. 

A salary of $11,600 will be added henceforth in Parisi’s $86,640 a year salary and her 25-hour a week schedule will be upped by about three hours a month, approved on a 4-1 vote Tuesday, with Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede opposed. 

Parisi has performed the audit separately from her regular duties since 2000 and was paid separately. Prior to 2000, the City had hired an independent certified public accounting firm to make the audit, paying a higher price for the service than requested by Parisi.

The switch included the caveat that the audits were not part of Parisi’s duties, a position reiterated by the council in 2005.

Parisi’s “special compensation” for the audits was reported to the California Public Employees Retirement System, which manages health and pension benefits for city employees. 

In 2015, CalPERS reviewed Parisi’s “special compensation” and notified the city that the audit did not qualify.

Had the council not taken the action to add the audits to Parisi’s regular duties, the City would have been required to eliminate the special compensation status of the payment for the audits. The City would also have been obliged to refund the $3,500 Parisi had contributed to her CalPERS retirement benefits related to the compensation for the audits. 

According to the report by Director of Administrative Services Gavin Curran, the CalPERS directive would have lowered the calculation of Parisi’s retirement by about $11,600.

Former Mayor Paul Freeman, who was on the council when the audits were assigned to Parisi, testified that he never thought the work was not “pensionable.”  

Councilman Steve Dicterow said putting the audits into Parisi’s hands was always intended to qualify for contributions to her retirement contribution to CalPERS.

However, the audits are not automatically part of the job for other treasurers who may not have the same qualifications or experience as Parisi.

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