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Public Safety Wins Public Records Act Fight to Prevent Disclosure of Retirement Status for CalPERS Pensions

   Published on:  08 Nov, 2019

A consortium of public safety unions (Cal Fire Local 2881, California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, California Professional Firefighters, and California Association of Highway Patrolmen) joined with CalPERS to fight a writ petition filed by Transparent California to force disclosure, under the California Public Records Act, of CalPERS retirees’ pension designations as “service,” “disability,” or “industrial disability.” The Court held a hearing on the writ petition on October 25, and on November 6, issued its opinion upholding CalPERS’ refusal to disclose this information for its retirees. All along, we have believed that this information impermissibly infringes on individual retirees’ right to privacy, and we argued that disclosure of the status of a retiree’s pension is essentially equivalent to disclosure of the retiree’s medical condition. The Court agreed, stating that whether a person is disabled is “private information concerning a person’s medical and/or psychological profile” and that “disclosing which retirees are receiving disability retirement benefits will disclose private medical information.” The Court ruled that a retiree’s pension designation as “service,” “disability,” or “industrial disability” is exempt from disclosure because this private information meets the definition of one of the exemptions specifically referenced in the Act, for “[d]ata filed with [CalPERS] by any member, retired member, beneficiary or annuitant” and/or an “individual record.”

Gary Messing and Wendi Berkowitz represented the unions, and Wendi argued on the unions’ behalf at the hearing on the writ petition. For further information, contact Wendi Berkowitz at (415) 266-1813.