A community college trustee who reaped a pension bonanza by retiring from the board two days before Tuesday's election was returned to his seat by voters, preliminary results showed Wednesday.
Armando Ruiz, a 21-year member of the Coast Community College District board, easily outdistanced two challengers Tuesday's ballot with about 41% of the total. Challengers Bonnie Castrey and Diane A. Lenning trailed substantially in the tally of regular votes; final figures will not be available until absentee and provisional ballots are counted.
The ballot labeled Ruiz "incumbent" because he notified the college Friday -- too late for any changes -- that he would retire Sunday. Critics have accused Ruiz of portraying himself as an incumbent while, at the same time, quitting before the election in order to take advantage of a quirk in state law that allowed him to significantly increase his pension.
Ruiz retired not only as a trustee but also from his full-time job as a counselor at Irvine Valley College.
Had Ruiz retired from the board on a day other than when he retired from Irvine Valley, he would have received the typical board pension of about $5,000 a year, plus $54,000 annually from his counselor's job, for a total of $59,000 annually.