December 5, 2012 | Back to: Columns

Retired school supe’s benefits to be cut

A former school superintendent’s retirement benefits have been cut after a state agency determined the administrator’s benefit calculation was “overstated.”

Former Grass Valley School District Superintendent Jon Byerrum’s retirement benefit will be reduced by about $6,000 annually, according the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. This brings his annual pension down from $69,400 to $63,400.

Byerrum’s pension came under scrutiny in June when Nevada County’s Civil Grand Jury reported that the former administrator received a nearly $13,000 raise that was not on any school board meeting agendas or minutes, and none of its members recalled discussing, granting or voting on the increase. That raise put his salary at $134,227, according to the district.

“What happened is I was given a pay raise. The board approved the pay raise. When we took action on it, we made a mistake on minutes,” Byerrum told The Union Monday in his first public comments on the matter since June.

“It is the result of what is ultimately a clerical error,” Byerrum said.

Additionally, the jurors allege that Byerrum instructed the district’s business manager to discontinue his medical benefits in a June 2006 email and to instead allocate him $5,613.60 of yearly in-lieu pay, even though his employment contract did not allow for cashin lieu of receiving medical benefits.

In July, CalSTRS determined that Byerrum’s salary was overstated and the cash in lieu of health benefits should not have been reported as part of his final compensation, which is used to determine his pension.

Byerrum, who retired in July 2009, did not file an appeal to CalSTRS, according to a spokesperson.

Contrary to his initial testimony to the Civil Grand Jury, Grass Valley School Board Member Frank Bennallack later recalled discussions of salary increases, despite having no paperwork to back up that claim.

In late August, the board indicated that a lack of documentation regarding their former superintendent’s salary increases was the result of an error — not malice, in the district’s official response to the Grand Jury.

“We hope it brings closure to an unfortunate situation,” said Superintendent Eric Fredrickson Tuesday.

Fredrickson replaced Byerrum in fall 2012. Jeanne Michael is the only current member of the board who began her term after Byerrum’s June 2010 retirement.

“It’s a relief for me that the board remembered it the way I did. That it was a procedural error,” Byerrum said. “It was a mistake. There was no attempt to defraud.”

Ultimately, the school board agreed with the Grand Jury’s report findings that no documentation exists to prove the school board approved Byerrum’s
raise, making it officially unauthorized.

“When push comes to shove, they have to go by what the minutes said,” Byerrum said.

In addition to the $6,000 annual reduction in Byerrum’s CalSTRS benefits, spokesman Ricardo Duran said that 5 percent will be deducted from his checks to pay for retroactive overpayments.

“I never felt, and still don’t feel, that this qualifies as a spiking issue,” Byerrum said.

If Byerrum passes away before his two years of overpayment are recouped through the 5 percent deductions, Duran said that the burden will fall on the school district to repay it.

“It was emotionally difficult to go through it when this was all coming out in the papers. But it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished as a district while I was there,” Byerrum said. “It’s been a difficult time. I am looking forward to moving on.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.

Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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The Union Updated Dec 7, 2012 08:00AM Published Dec 6, 2012 07:35PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.