Since the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame is getting crowded, I’ve decided we need a system to limit new entrants.
So today we’re doing an experiment. We’ll look at two separate stories about lazy and overpaid bureaucrats, and the comments section will determine which one actually is most deserving of joining the Hall of Fame.
Let’s start in Italy, where Alberto Muraglia stakes his claim to membership. Here are some excerpts from a story in the UK-based Times.
Video footage of a policeman clocking in for work in his underpants before allegedly heading back to his bed has become the symbol of an embarrassing absenteeism scandal among council employees in San Remo, on the Italian Riviera. Alberto Muraglia, a pot-bellied, 53-year-old officer, was secretly filmed as he clocked on at council offices. He lives in the same building, a converted hotel, where he occupies a caretaker flat — allowing him to register his presence at work, and then go back to bed, it is alleged.
To be fair, our Italian contestant has an excuse for his truancy.
Though it’s about as plausible as the Groucho Marx quote, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
Mr Muraglia’s wife, Adriana, said the family had an alibi for every instance in which her husband was suspected of clocking in at 5.30am, opening the gates to the council building, and then returning to bed. “Some mornings, if he was a few minutes late pulling on his trousers, he would clock in in that manner and then get fully dressed immediately after and go off to work,” Mrs Muraglia told La Stampanewspaper. “Some mornings he may have forgotten, and he telephoned me to clock in on his behalf.”
In any event, Signor Muraglia is not the only bureaucrat scamming the system.
More than a hundred employees — 75 per cent of the council workforce — are under investigation for allegedly skiving off in the resort town…investigators…filmed employees swiping their time cards, and sometimes those of multiple colleagues, before turning tail and heading off to pursue other interests. One employee, filmed paddling a kayak on the Mediterranean, is alleged to have spent at least 400 hours away from his desk in the planning office, a dereliction of duty estimated to have cost San Remo council more than €5,600.
Though I have to say 400 hours away from his desk is chicken feed compared to the Italian doctor who worked only 15 days in a nine-year period.
And I like how the bureaucrats awarded themselves bonuses for their…um…hard work.
Eight of the suspected skivers shared a €10,000 productivity bonus last year.
I guess there must be an unwritten rule in government: The worse your performance, the higher your compensation.
Now let’s see how Alberto compares to our American contestant. As reported by the Contra Costa Times, former City Manager Joe Tanner is scamming taxpayers for a lavish pension, yet he’s asking for more on the basis of a shady deal he made with the City Council.
By working just two and a half more years, retired Vallejo City Manager Joseph Tanner boosted his starting annual pension from $131,500 to $216,000. He wants more, claiming he’s entitled to yearly retirement pay of $307,000. …he is now taking his six-year dispute to the state Court of Appeal. At issue is whether CalPERS must pay benefits on a contract Tanner and the Vallejo City Council concocted to boost his pension.
An extra $85,000 of pension for the rest of his life just for working 2-1/2 years?
Geesh, and I though the Philadelphia bureaucrat who is getting $50,000 of yearly loot for the rest of her life, after just three years of “work,” had a good deal. She must be feeling very envious of Mr. Tanner.
Yet Mr. Tanner isn’t satisfied.
Here’s the part that seems like it should be amusing, but it’s not actually funny when you realize that government employee pensions are driving states into fiscal chaos.
Ironically, Tanner was a critic of pension excesses. …Yet his personal spiking gambit was breathtaking. The case exemplifies how some top public officials try to manipulate their compensation to grossly inflate their retirement pay. …Tanner’s quest for another $90,000 a year, plus inflation adjustments, for the rest of his life is unreasonable.
Here’s how he schemed to pillage taxpayers.
His first contract with Vallejo called for $216,000 in base salary, plus a list of add-on items that would soon be converted to salary, bringing his compensation to $306,000. But when CalPERS advised that the amount of those add-ons would not count toward his pension, he insisted the contract be fixed. The result: His contract was amended. The add-ons were eliminated and his base salary was simply increased to $306,000, plus management incentive pay and other items that brought the total to about $349,000. If CalPERS used that number, his pension would have started at $307,000 a year. CalPERS says it was an obvious subterfuge. The amended contract was never put before the City Council at any public meeting. And there was never a truthful public explanation for it.
Of course there wasn’t a truthful explanation.
Whether bureaucrats are negotiating with other bureaucrats or whether they’re negotiating with politicians, a main goal is to hide details in order to maximize the amount of money being extracted from taxpayers.
By the way, the example of Mr. Tanner is odious, but it’s not nearly as disgusting as what happened in another California community.
Before inviting readers to vote, I want to make a serious point. Government employee pensions are a fiscal black hole because they are “defined benefits” (DB plans), which means annual payments to retirees are driven by formulas. And those formulas often include clauses that create precisely the perverse incentives exploited by Mr. Tanner.
The right approach is to reform the system so that bureaucrats instead are in a “defined contribution” system (DC plans), which basically operates like IRAs and 401(k)s. A bureaucrat’s retirement income is solely a function of how much is contributed to his or her account and how much it earns over time. By definition, there is no unfunded liability. There’s no fiscal nightmare for future taxpayers.
Now that I have that cry for fiscal prudence out of my system, I invite readers to vote. Does the shirking underwear-clad Italian bureaucrat deserve to join the Hall of Fame, or should that honor be bestowed on the scheming and hypocritical American bureaucrat?
P.S. While I think DC plans are inherently superior (and safer for taxpayers) than DB plans, I will acknowledge that some nations manage to run DB plans honestly.