Is another Coast Community College District Trustee trying to double his pension?

Is Coast Community College District Trustee Walter G. Howald trying to rip off the taxpayers?

Do you remember former Coast Community College District Trustee Armando Ruiz?  He was the guy who retired for one day then ran, and won, again and ended up doubling his pension.  Voters were so peeved that they ousted him in 2008, replacing him with university professor Lorraine Prinsky.

Now I am hearing that yet another trustee from the Coast Community College District, Walter Howald, intends to double dip on a PERS pension. Apparently Mr. Howald is trying to join the California Community Colleges Board of Govenors, via an appointment by our lame Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Howald was elected to the Board in the 1980s and worked as an attorney. Early in the 2000s, he approached the then-Chancellor of Coast, William Vega, and asked him for help in finding a full time position in the community college system so he could earn a “PERS retirement.”

Vega was successful and used his influence to get Howald a six figure job at Bakersfield College, while held kept his trustee position at Coast. During this time there may have been periods where Howald did not even live in the Coast District full time, as he spent most of time living in Bakersfield – his information there was kept secret from the people of the District, and he officially listed his occupation as “attorney” on election papers and other documents, even though a Google search will reveal that Howald was really a community college manager.

Howald worked as an administrator at Bakersfield for over five years, left, and he is now back on the Coast PERS program. There are even questions as to whether or not it was legal for the District to place Howald back on PERS as trustees no longer are able to get PERS retirement benefits. But, regardless, Howald is back on PERS.

The double dip occurs by Howald retiring, and combining his years of service as a trustee with his short few years as a community college administrator. His large salary from the administrator job is what is used to base his pension on, even though the vast majority of his service to taxpayers has been as a trustee. The double dip will cost tax payers much, much more.

It is almost certain that if he is re-elected in 2010, Howald will “retire” later in his next term and combine both the pensions, when he should only get his pension as a trustee, costing tax payers upwards of a million dollars through the remainder of his life. He knows he will benefit from this, as public records indicate that Mr Howald just completed construction of a million dollar home.

Former Coast trustee Ruiz was voted out of office for doing the same thing: combining service as an administrator and trustee to enrich himself with an enlarged and unearned public pension. It is well known throughout the Coast organization that Howald has abused his power to exploit the pension system in California. Howald would respond by saying this is not true, but if it was not, why would he go back on the Coast PERS plan after leaving another community college?

What is worse is that Howald has traveled extensively at taxpayer expense during a time of financial crisis, so much that the Coast board had to put a cap on travel costs. Merely reviewing board agendas on the Coast website reveals that Howald’s expenses for travel over the last several years amount to the salary of a low level employee. How could Mr. Howald behave so irresponsibly? It demonstrates a lack of leadership. And now, after operating in these ways, Mr. Howald wants to be on the State’s Board of Governors?

If Mr. Howald wishes to be re-elected to the Coast board later this year, and also wants to be on the State Board of Governors, he should be asked to relinquish his pension double dip, do the ethical thing and admit that he was greedy, wrong, and that he abused his power by pressuring Coast administrators to help him find employment, and work with government leaders and policy makers to eliminate pension abuse once and for all.

At the minimum, Howald should note on his election papers that he was a community college manager, and really not a full-time attorney over the last decade, when he goes before voters in November. At least then, some of the truth about Mr. Howald will be known.

Needless to say, we need to find someone decent to run against Howald – and time is running out.

By the way, in case you are wondering, Howald is a Republican.  OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh says he wants to do something about unions and the public employee pension crisis.  Well Scott, here is your assignment – find someone to take this guy out in November.

Memo to the OC Democrats.  You can pick up this seat.  Get off your butts and find another Prinsky and get her on the ballot!!!

About Art Pedroza