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Salinas hospital district discloses more executive pensions

January 30, 2012 |  6:56 pm

A Salinas public hospital that awarded one of the largest public pensions in state history to its former chief executive announced Monday that it would give lucrative retirement packages to four other top officials.

Two outgoing executives at the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, Chief Financial Officer John Fletcher and Chief Operating Office Bev Ranzenberger, will receive supplemental retirement payments of more than $1 million in addition to their regular pensions of roughly $100,000 a year, according to estimates released by the hospital. Both administrators made annual salaries of about $340,000, the hospital said.

The Salinas Valley hospital came under fire last year after The Times reported on the retirement package awarded to former Chief Executive Officer Samuel Downing, which included supplemental payments totaling about $4 million along with a “defined-benefit” pension of more than $100,000 a year. Downing had also received a $1-million severance payment from the hospital years earlier, even though he was never actually terminated.

The disclosure of Downing’s pension prompted state lawmakers to call for an audit of the hospital, which is a public entity overseen by an elected board. The results of that inquiry are expected to be released next month.

At the time, hospital officials defended the payouts to Downing and praised him as an accomplished leader. Downing said he felt he deserved the retirement money after decades of service.

However, the hospital has since discontinued the controversial executive retirement plan, spokeswoman Adrienne Laurent said.

In addition to Fletcher and Ranzenberger, two other executives who participated in the plan are set to walk away with generous packages. Chief Medical Officer David Perrott, who worked at the hospital for 11 years, is set to receive a supplemental retirement payment of more than $370,000, along with an annual pension of $50,000, according to the hospital’s estimates.

Liz Lorenzi, a vice president of business development, will receive a supplemental payment of $357,000, and an annual pension of $54,000.

The executives’ retirement payments come despite recent financial struggles at the hospital, which has about 270 acute-care beds. Hundreds of staff positions have been eliminated in the last two years, Laurent said, and the hospital’s board is in the process of exploring a merger or affiliation with a separate hospital system as a way to cut costs.

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--Sam Allen

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