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CA public hospital chief's retirement pay spotlights 'supplemental' pensions

Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2011

When he turned 65 two years ago, Samuel Downing received a $3-million retirement payment from a public hospital district in Salinas, CA, where he serves as president and CEO. But Downing continued working at his $668,000-a-year job for another two years, and after he retires this week, he will receive another payment of nearly $900,000. That comes on top of his regular pension of $150,000 a year. The payments amount to one of the more generous pension packages granted to a public official in California and come amid growing debate about "supplemental" pensions that some officials receive on top of their basic retirement benefits. Officials at the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System defended the payouts, saying they need to pay private-sector-level benefits to retain top talent. They described Downing as a gifted and experienced administrator.