Double-dipping: Saving or wasting taxpayers' money?

May 12, 2011 8:52:22 PM PDT
While they're slashing budgets and cutting jobs in Contra Costa County, ABC7 News has learned that one public employee is doing very well. He's collecting a quarter-million dollar pension and a six-figure salary. It's called double-dipping, and critics say we just can't afford it. However, some argue it's actually saving taxpayers' money.

No one discounts the value and years of quality service Dr. William Walker has brought to the county for nearly four decades, but some are questioning a practice that allows him and others to collect from two different pots of public money.

After 37 years of service, Contra Costa Health Services Director Dr. William Walker retired in December. Yet the 65-year-old Walker is still performing the same job as a contract worker for the county.

"State law allows public employees who retire to work for their agency up to 960 hours per year of pay," said Contra Costa supervisor John Gioia. "So what Dr. Walker's doing is working full-time for the half-time pay."

In 2010, Walker's gross income was $291,000, a sum that included more than $80,000 in pay as an on-call physician. Now that he's retired, Walker's collecting half of his $190,000 base salary, plus a pension of more than $264,000 from a fund the county subsidizes. Walker now gets nearly $360,000 per year.

"These are costs that are coming out of the county's budget," said Kris Hunt, executive director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. "It's a smart decision on his [part] to make? to the county, not so much because that pension is there and in addition you have this additional salary to pay."

Supervisor John Gioia says Walker is among a handful of managers who've retired but then returned to the county as contract workers.

"There may be people who are retiring after age 50 and coming back, and I think that's clearly a case where it would appear to be abuse," said Gioia.

Larry Edginton is general manager of Public Employees Local 1 which supports Assembly Bill 340 that would curtail the practice of retiring one day and returning the next.

"It goes to this fundamental question of -- is it lawful, or is it right? It is lawful, and if it's earned and it's paid for and you can do it, it's right," said Edginton. "If we want to change that, then we can change it."

County leaders say that in Walker's case this arrangement actually saves Contra Costa County about $300,000 a year -- money they would spend hiring his replacement.

ABC7 spoke with Walker who is attending meetings in Los Angeles. He said at age 65 it simply made sense to retire and that he wanted realize his dream of healthcare reform.

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