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Police Chief Is Retired in Name Only

Santa Ana's Walters boosts his income by staying on the job. City says it's saving money.

August 31, 2004|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters officially retired two months ago but has remained on the job, nearly doubling his income.

City officials applaud the move for saving the city money.

Because of his 33 years of department service, Walters qualified three years ago to receive a pension equivalent to about 90% of his salary.

When he announced this year that he was going to retire, he agreed at the city's request to stay on the job until June, at an annual salary of $157,428 but without health, life or disability insurance or additional retirement benefits. Walters, 59, also is using his annual pension, estimated at $141,685. The arrangement is allowed by state law.

City Manager David N. Ream said the city was benefiting by keeping Walters on the payroll because his pension is funded by the state retirement system. Had he not retired and claimed his pension, the city would have paid him his salary plus about $50,000 in annual benefits.

"We want to keep Chief Walters for as long as we can," Ream said. "He is a great asset to the city, particularly as we go through a terrible time with the state budget."

Ream said he would begin his search for Walters' replacement next year.

Walters joined the Santa Ana department as a patrolman in 1971 and became chief in 1988. During his three decades with the department, Walters has been praised for his focus on community-oriented policing and for the construction of the city's jail.

In 1998, he fought a bitter campaign for sheriff against then-county Marshal Michael S. Carona. Despite the support of the deputy sheriffs union, he lost the race and did not challenge Carona four years later.

Walters said Monday he could have retired years ago and taken other opportunities, but he was devoted to Santa Ana.

"If you looked at it strictly in an economic sense, I would have left a long time ago," Walters said.

Walters is not alone in collecting retirement benefits while still working. Anaheim Police Chief John Welter is a retired San Diego assistant police chief. Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden is a retired Costa Mesa police chief. Fullerton Police Chief Pat McKinley retired as a Los Angeles police captain before taking his current job.

Leslie McGill, executive director of the California Police Chiefs Assn., said Walters' arrangement was typical.

"This has been going on for years," she said. "It's usually a short stint."

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