Legislators seek to audit payments augmenting pension for Samuel Downing, former chief of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare District. One lawmaker calls them ‘unconscionable.’
By Sam Allen
A state Assembly panel next week will consider launching an audit of a public hospital district in Salinas that awarded its retiring chief executive officer nearly $4 million in retirement payments in addition to his regular $150,000-a-year pension.
“I find these excessive benefits unconscionable,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), who is proposing the audit. “It certainly appears their priorities are all wrong, to give these million-dollar benefits at the expense of patient care.”
Alejo said he has several concerns about the leadership of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare District. The Times reported last week that the district’s board approved a series of supplemental retirement paymentsto outgoing Chief Executive Officer Samuel Downing. Some experts described the package as one of the more generous public pensions awarded in California.
Downing, who retired last week, earned a base salary of $668,000, along with additional benefits such as a car allowance and paid time off. His 2009 total wages of $790,000 made him one of the best-paid public employees in California, according to the state controller.