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University Of California 'Recalled Retirees' Receiving $300,000+ In Annual Pensions

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Twenty-five University of California retirees are each collecting pensions of at least $300,000, totaling more than $8 million annually, public documents show.

The non-profit California Policy Center obtained documents from the Office of the UC President this week through a California Public Records Act request, and shared those documents with CBS San Francisco.

The revelation that such large pensions are being received by UC retirees -- both teaching faculty members and non-teaching staff -- comes at a time when the Office of the President faces severe scrutiny after a slush fund of up to $175 million was discovered during an audit.

UC President Janet Napolitano has apologized for how she handled the audit but maintains that the amount of money not in the public view was much less.

In addition to the hefty pension packages, California Policy Center Director of Policy Research Marc Joffe says some UC employees not only receive their pensions, but also get a salary if they return to work in the UC system while still in retirement.

Joffe said that of the 25 University of California retirees who are collecting pensions of over $300,000 annually, eight are also collecting salaries.

One of the so-called "recalled retirees," Dr. Fawzy I. Fazwy, received over $650,000 in 2015, according to public documents.

Dr. Fawzy did not immediately respond to CBS San Francisco's request for comment, but in 2016 he actually held a lecture, that was posted to YouTube, that instructs junior UC faculty on how they too can receive the most money possible for their retirements.

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In 2016, UC implemented a new employee retirement plan that places a cap on the pensionable earnings of future employees. In return for implementing the new plan, the UC system will get $436 million from the state to help pay down its unfunded pension liability.

Following the approval of the new retirement program, Regent Monica Lozano said the regents were committed to "developing a set of retirement options that are financially prudent, are oriented toward the long-term sustainability of the university and that allow us to effectively recruit and retain the very best faculty and staff."

Under California law, accrued pension benefits cannot be revoked or reduced, so the reforms only apply to those employees hired after July 1, 2016.

Joffe said that because pension reforms normally only apply to new hires, long-standing faculty members appear to be "immune to any changes." But he did suggest that to rein in the largest pensions, the state could consider applying a surtax to pensions above a certain amount.

The UC Office of the President did not immediately respond to a request for an interview and UC regents Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Gov. Jerry Brown have not responded to a request for comment.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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