I just took a swing through the pensions we are doling out to our former elected leaders and judges. Turns out you don’t even have to be an elected leader or a judge to score a comfy retirement, courtesy of Arizona taxpayers.
Lindsay Ellis – the now-retired probate court commissioner who was charged with protecting Marie Long -- retired earlier this year and now draws a $104,400 annual pension.
Court commissioners are appointed by Superior Court’s presiding judge. By rights, they should be part of the pension system of rank-and-file state employees rather than elected officials and judges. They don’t go through the vetting system that full-fledged judges face. They never have to stand for retention at elections as full-fledged judges do. And yet they get the perks.
“The judge’s plan merged with the elected officials plan in 1985,” Tracey Peterson, who is chief operating officer of several of the plans, including this one, told me. “Court commissioners were a part of the judge’s plan. So when there was the merger, they just came over.”
That means we are kicking in more than $2 for every $1 that she and other commissioners put into their retirement (as opposed to a dollar-for-dollar match for other state employees). After 20 years, commissioners get to retire with 80 percent of their pay (a far cushier deal than other state employees), plus they get annual 4 percent cost-of-living adjustments (regular state employees haven't had a cost-of-living adjustment in five years).
The whole thing leads me to wonder why anyone would ever want to be a judge when they can be hired as a commissioner and get the same black robe and the same great perks -- without the hassle of facing voters ever four years.
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Too Bad Marie Long Didn't Have Lindsay Ellis' Retirement System