Some former Oklahoma officials' state pensions top $100K

More than 60 former Oklahoma elected officials, district attorneys and judges have pensions of more than $100,000 per year, according to new data collected by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. But the majority of retirees make much less, records show.
BY PAUL MONIES pmonies@opubco.com Published: June 26, 2011
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photo - Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma attorney general
Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma attorney general

More than 60 state retirees, including former statewide elected officials, district attorneys and judges, are receiving annual pensions of more than $100,000.

In many cases, those annual pensions exceed the retiree's highest annual salary and dwarf the amount the retiree contributed during his or her years of public service.

The pension information is online at AccountAbilityOK.com, a new website developed by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. The organization advocates for limited government and has called on lawmakers to convert the state pension systems to defined-contribution plans more like those in the private sector.

For several years, former State Auditor and Inspector Clifton Scott was the poster child for the state's highest pension. But Scott, with an annual pension of about $157,000, has been supplanted by two former district attorneys, records show.

Tom Giulioli, who retired last year as the district attorney for Okmulgee and McIntosh counties, has an annual pension of more than $176,700. Cathy Stocker, who served as district attorney for 28 years in a five-county area from Enid to El Reno, has an annual pension of more than $162,000.

Both Giulioli and Stocker each earned an annual salary of almost $122,000 in their final years on the job, according to state payroll data.

Neither Giulioli nor Stocker could be reached for comment.

Changes in state pension laws and rules will stop future retirees from receiving annual pensions higher than their salaries. But thousands of current and future retirees are still “grandfathered” from the changes, which apply mostly to new state employees.

Among recent high-profile retirees with six-figure pensions are:

Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, whose annual pension is almost $150,000 after 33 years of service.

Former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett, who spent 44 years in state government. Her annual pension is $123,600.

Data collection

Under the state's Open Records Act, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs collected individual pension benefit data from three of the state's six major pension systems. The data on the AccountAbilityOK.com website covers more than 75,000 retirees or their beneficiaries.

Three public safety pension systems — firefighters, police and law enforcement — declined to provide the same information as the pension systems for teachers, state employees and judges, said Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director for the group.

Small said the public safety pension systems all cited confidentiality for not releasing individual beneficiary data. He called on lawmakers to open the beneficiary information for the public safety pension systems.

“Citizens, who in the end are responsible for paying all the promises of these pension systems, deserve to know the details and results of financial obligations for which they are on the hook,” Small said.

Tom Spencer, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, said lawmakers opened basic information about the system's beneficiaries in the wake of the Gene Stipe scandal.

Stipe, a former state senator from McAlester, pleaded guilty in 2003 to federal campaign finance violations. Stipe, who is 84 and suffers from dementia, continues to receive a state pension of more than $95,800 annually.

Check out more than 75,000 state retiree pension amounts...

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