IRWINDALE (CBSLA.com) — Thirty years ago, Herb Standridge left his own business to work as a contractor for LA Works for the benefit of a good pension.
The firm was a partnership among four San Gabriel Valley cities to provide job training that folded in 2014.
That pension is now in jeopardy of being reduced by about 60 percent, leaving his widow Christell, who was a homemaker, with a fraction of her income.
“I don’t know what I will do. I don’t know what it will mean to me,” Christell Standridge said. “We just never dreamed this would happen.”
Standridge got a letter back in January from the California Public Employee Retirement System, or CalPERS, telling her that LA Works had failed to pay into oits retirees’ pensions. Then in March, another letter came, saying efforts to collect the money were unsuccessful, so her benefits would be reduced starting July 1.
Standridge is 85, and she lives with her two daughters in Covina. They say they’ll take care of her no matter what, but she doesn’t want that. The thought of it brings her to tears.
“We’ve always done what we could for them, and now I am going to be dependent on them,” Standridge said.
CalPERS said in a statement that it was reducing the pensions of nearly 200 former employees as a last resort.
“The board was forced to make this painful decision after East San Gabriel Valley failed to stand by its contractual obligations despite repeated and numerous attempts by CalPERS to avoid this terrible situation.”
In letters from all four cities in the joint powers authority that ran LA Works, they each say that making up for the $19 million to save the pensions is not their legal responsibility.
“I know my dad must be turning over in his grave,” Christell’s daughter Lynn Hill said. “I know he thought he made good provisions for him and her in their old age, and we’re thinking she may not have what she needs.”
The mayor of Covina and chairman of the LA Works board says it would be illegal for the cities to use city funds to bail out the pensions. He feels that CalPERS should use a terminated agency fund to cover it. CalPERS says they won’t use the fund for this because then they can’t continue to go after LA Works for the money owed.