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2 OC Officials On Leave For $228M Pension Error

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SANTA ANA (AP) — Two Orange County officials have been placed on paid leave following the discovery of a computer error that resulted in a $228 million mistake in funding for pensions for county workers.

The Orange County Register reported Thursday that pensions themselves shouldn’t be affected by the mistake, but it will result in some hefty catch-up bills for agencies countywide. The Orange County Fire Authority, for example, will have to pay $76 million to make up for eight years in which funds went uncollected for special pay stipends for paramedics and others with specialized jobs, the newspaper reported.

The retirement agency is allowing the firefighters to pay the bill over a 25-year period beginning in July.

“To get a bill like that was devastating,” Joe Kerr, president of the 800-member Orange County Professional Firefighters, told the newspaper.

The county’s share of the shortfall is $120 million, and includes sheriff’s department pensions. The rest of the shortfall is spread among other county agencies whose pensions are overseen by the pension agency.

Orange County Employees Retirement System Assistant CEO Steve Cadena and Finance Officer Michelle Williamson have been placed on paid leave since Feb. 18, as the agency conducts an audit.

The pension agency serves 12,800 retirees through an $8.6 billion fund.

The agency’s chief executive Steve Delaney told the Register that computers started missing the premium pay portion of members’ salaries after new software was installed in 2003. That means billing rates were being set on inaccurate information.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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