California's largest state retiree group wants the Legislature to hold hearings into privacy and public information issues recently spotlighted by a plan - now on hold - for a searchable online database of annuitant retirement benefits.
Tim Behrens, president of the 33,000-member California State Retirees, requested the hearing in a letter to Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who chair committees concerned with public employee retirement issues.
CalPERS had planned to launch a searchable database of retiree pension information that for years has been considered public record, including names, pension allowances, last employer and year of retirement.
CalPERS said the information is public record and that it regularly releases the information to anyone who requests it. Posting the information on its website, fund officials said, would be more efficient than fielding and filling separate requests for the information as CalPERS does now.
And hosting the information on its website would allow the fund to control the data, officials said, while still fulfilling public records law requirements to release it. Some news organizations and political groups have taken CalPERS pension data and hosted it on their own websites.
Retiree groups blasted CalPERS idea, however, worried that making the information so easily accessible would heighten the likelihood that pensioners would be targeted by scammers who prey on the elderly. As the issue heated up and talk of the Legislature acting surfaced, CalPERS put the database launch on hold.
"Interim hearings will help the Legislature investigate," Behrens wrote in his Wednesday letter to lawmakers, "and perhaps develop a legislative solution that strikes the appropriate balance between the personal privacy of retirees and the importance of public access to CalPERS retiree data."