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L.A. County deputies' pension disclosures postponed

Judge agrees to delay disclosure of pension data on 2,529 retired sheriff's deputies after union attorney contends doing so would endanger lives.

September 23, 2011|By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times

A judge agreed Thursday to postpone the disclosure of pension data for 2,529 retired Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies after a union attorney claimed that giving it to the Los Angeles Times would endanger the lives of some retirees.

Retired deputies will have until Oct. 7 to file declarations detailing why they think their lives would be at risk if their identities are included in pension information requested by The Times.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said he would review the legitimacy of each case and rule in early November. Chalfant said he would grant anonymity only to former deputies who can demonstrate real risk.

"Just the fact that they are a peace officer is not good enough to justify non-disclosure," Chalfant said.

The Times has sought pension data on the county's 50,000 retirees for nearly a year. Until recently, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Assn., which administers the pension benefits, has contended that the information is confidential.

Pension board members changed their mind, however, after appellate courts in three lawsuits in other counties ordered the release of similar information. The retirement association agreed earlier this month to provide limited information on retirees, including their names, pension payments and the departments from which they retired.

The Professional Peace Officers Assn., which represents management-level deputies, filed legal action this week seeking to temporarily stop the publication of names so that retirees who feel they are at risk can request anonymity.

In court Thursday, Chalfant suggested he would agree to keep secret only the names of those who have retired in the last 18 months, worked undercover full time until retirement and can demonstrate that revealing their name would put them in danger.

Chalfant said a second union representing rank-and-file deputies, the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, could also petition the court on behalf of its retired members.

Karl Olson, attorney for the Los Angeles Times, said he was satisfied with the result of the hearing.

"We're pleased the judge grasped the issues and said it would take extraordinary circumstances to withhold any names from disclosure," said Olson. "The court seemed to recognize that at most only a handful of names would qualify."

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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