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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

53% of County Safety Workers Found to Retire on Disability

May 09, 2000

LOS ANGELES — A total of 53% of Los Angeles County employees who work in public safety retire citing job-related injuries, a move which allows them to avoid paying taxes on half of their pensions, according to a report released Monday.

The report from the county's Chief Administrative Office notes that, in comparison, the city of Los Angeles allows about 20% of its safety workers to take what is known as service-connected disability retirement, because the City Charter contains tougher standards for what qualifies an employee for the benefit.

In the county, a 1937 state law prevails that does not require the job to be a predominant cause of the disability leading to an employee's retirement.

The Board of Supervisors ordered the report last year after a memo from the county treasurer pointed out that such a policy has allowed, among other things, a sheriff's deputy to retire for injuries suffered in a department softball game.

Fixing the loophole would require an agreement with law enforcement unions and then a change in state legislation, which officials say would be an uphill battle because of the political clout of the unions, whose representatives could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the board would move to change the regulations. Of the report's finding that more than half of safety workers took service-connected disability retirement, he said: "It defies common sense."

Among the employees covered by Monday's report were sheriff's deputies, lifeguards, firefighters and district attorney's investigators.

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