No Law Allows Withholding Of Retirement Pay Because Of Conviction
10:33 AM, Nov 22, 2011
Anthony Arevalos, the former San Diego police officer convicted of a dozen charges last week after trying to seek sexual favors from women he stopped, is eligible to collect a nearly $40,000-a-year pension from the city when he turns 55.
The San Diego Union-Tribune projected Arevalos future pension by applying his 17.4 years of service and final annual salary of $75,941 to the standard pension formula the city has negotiated for public-safety workers. If he lives until age 82, hell collect more than $1 million in taxpayer-funded payouts.As the Union-Tribune has previously reported, there is no city or state law on the books that would allow officials to take away or reduce the size of a city workers pension even if that individual has committed a felony while on the job. At least two former city employees parks worker Helen Ferrell and ex-Councilman Ralph Inzunza collect pensions despite having a felony conviction.A citizens initiative headed for the June ballot would make several sweeping changes to San Diegos pension system, one of which calls for the elimination of pension benefits for city officers and employees convicted of a felony related to their employment, duties or obligations as a city officer or employee. If it is approved by voters, the measure couldnt retroactively strip a pension from convicted felons such as Arevalos.Arevalos was convicted Thursday of eight felonies and four misdemeanors for sexually assaulting several women he had pulled over for drunken driving, and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and four months in prison. He is being held without bail until his sentencing, which is set for Dec. 19.Arevalos, 41, was fired in April, just weeks after his arrest, as details emerged about his proclivities. During the trial, prosecutors presented testimony from seven women who said he stopped them in the Gaslamp area of downtown San Diego and made inappropriate comments or touched them in an intimate way.The most recent incident involved a woman who said Arevalos stopped her on March 8 as she was leaving a Mardi Gras celebration and told her that she failed to use her turn signal. She took a breath test and was surprised to learn that her blood alcohol content measured 0.09 percent the legal limit is 0.08 percent.Arevalos then asked her to move her car to a nearby 7-Eleven, where he asked what she would be willing to do to make the DUI go away. He suggested she give him her panties. She testified he followed her into a bathroom, where he asked to see her breasts and touched her body before allowing her to put her pants back on. She reported the incident to police the next day.Dan Gilleon, an attorney representing four of Arevalos victims, said he didnt believe his clients would relish going after the officers pension in a civil case. Theyve filed claims with the city seeking damages, typically a precursor to a lawsuit.The victims of what he did are not just those women that he pulled over. Theyre also, unfortunately, his kids and his wife and theyre suffering too, Gilleon said. I really feel bad for them, just from a personal level, because its horrible. I cant imagine any one of my four clients would be interested in trying to take money away from the kids and the wife.Defense attorney Gretchen von Helms, who represented Arevalos, didnt return a call for comment. The City Attorneys Office also declined to comment because the pending claims are under review.The Union-Tribune estimates Arevalos future annual pension at $39,716 based on a formula for pre-2009 hires that gives police officers 3 percent of their salary for every year worked. Newer hires get 2.5 percent per year.Had Arevalos reached 20 years of employment with the city, his annual pension would have been nearly $6,000 higher and he could have started taking it five years earlier at age 50. That would have led to future payouts totaling nearly $1.5 million by age 82.For other stories from our news partner, go to uniontrib.com.