The board of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) has maintained a pension reduction for former California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Sheldon K. Scarber. Last month the board upheld the ruling of Administrative Law Judge Dannette C. Brown, which also granted “in part” the appeal of Sarber. In 2012 he conspired with his wife and daughter to help his son “flee to Mexico to avoid appearance in court on charges of rape, sexual penetration, burglary and robbery.”
For the .668 year period from Dec. 11, 2012 through Aug 29, 2013, CalPERS reduced Sarber’s pension from $10,510.99 to $9,808.34. CalPERS found no “medical substantiation” that Sarber was” incapacitated” during that period.
The former CHP Assistant Chief must reimburse CalPERS for the “total amount of overpayment in amount to be calculated by CalPERS.” On the other hand, according to the ruling, CalPERS “incorrectly removed” Sarber from the disability retirement roll. That seems at odds with other parts of Brown’s ruling.
According to state law, a public employee convicted of a felony arising from official job duties forfeits all accrued rights and benefits in the public retirement system. As Brown’s ruling notes, Sarber “used his connections as a CHP officer to facilitate actions taken to unlawfully move his son to Mexico, and used his work equipment to move documents off site.”
As the ruling explains, the “conspirators,” Sarber’s wife and daughter, “staged a crime to make it look as though son had been abducted,” and provided the fugitive rape suspect a fake birth certificate in the name of Brandon Smith.
The CHP assistant chief was sentenced to 365 days in Fresno County Jail, with 363 days suspended, and six months probation. At his hearing last year, Sarber showed documents that his offense was reduced to misdemeanor. The state pension system also treated him well.
On April 5, 2018, CalPERS approved Sarber’s application for a disability retirement. According to Brown’s ruling, CalPERS found that “respondent was substantially incapacitated from performance of his usual duties as Assistant Chief with the CHP based upon his orthopedic (back) condition.” CalPERS then “adjusted status and benefits retroactive to effective retirement date of October 13, 2013.”
Sarber’s son Spencer is now inmate AS6561 at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at Corcoran State Prison. His father “used his connections as a CHP officer to facilitate actions taken to unlawfully move his son to Mexico,” and used his work equipment “to move documents off site.” The CHP assistant chief got off with a suspended sentence and had a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.
According to Brown’s ruling, CalPERS “incorrectly removed” Sarber from the disability retirement roll. Though docked $702.62 a month for a period of .668 years, the former CHP assistant chief remains on a tax-free disability pension in the neighborhood of $120,000 a year.
According to a former CHP officer, assistant chief Sarber never should have been allowed to retire and draw a state pension. Californians could be forgiven for believing that state courts and pension systems alike maintain rather lenient standards for CHP bosses.
Meanwhile, according to the Sacramento Bee, California’s government employee pensions are set to rise by $676 million.