For years, Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. reigned as the highest-paid city official in California, riding in limousines and making more than half a million dollars a year as city administrator for the tiny industrial town of Vernon.
Then the 74-year-old was charged with embezzling public funds.
But Malkenhorst still sits at the top -- this time as the retiree collecting the most money from the state's public employee pension fund. Malkenhorst draws about $500,000 a year in state pension benefits, even as he awaits a trial.
According to figures released this week under a public records request by the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, the former Vernon administrator tops a list of about 4,800 retirees who get more than $100,000 a year from CalPERS.
Marcia Fritz, vice chairman of the organization, said such lucrative pensions are a waste of tax dollars.
"We can't afford to pay for this and have a government that functions," she said.
Malkenhorst far outpaced the second person on the list, a UCLA physician, who receives $296,555. Vernon officials had no comment Thursday on the pension. Malkenhorst, who has denied any wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment.
Los Angeles County prosecutors allege that he spent $60,000 in city money for personal use, including massages, golf outings and political contributions.
Max Huntsman, the prosecutor who is handling the Malkenhorst case, said it is not illegal to be highly paid, but added that he has "never heard of anybody in any public capacity paid as much as [Malkenhorst]. I don't think any such person has ever existed -- state, federal. Maybe someone in the United [Arab] Emirates."