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Top Huntington Park official steps down over pension rules violation

The top administrator in Huntington Park stepped down this week after city officials learned his employment appeared to violate state retirement rules.

Interim City Manager Raul Romero was notified by CalPERS last Thursday that he had exceeded the number of hours retired employees may work while still collecting pension benefits. He resigned on Monday.

Romero said he had retired from the City of Commerce in 2002 and continued working through his consulting company, R&R Municipal Solutions, over the last decade. He said he was not aware his job in Huntington Park would be an issue because he considered himself an independent contractor.

"I have been in business now for a number of years, and it was never a problem before," he said.

Huntington Park hired Romero last fall, under an agreement that paid him $18,500 a month. Prior to that, Romero had been serving as interim city administrator in La Puente. He also receives a CalPERS pension of about $71,000 a year.

Romero's Huntington Park contract described him as a consultant but also called for him to be "the administrative head" of the city’s government.

After receiving a tip, CalPERS determined that Romero's position qualified as full employment and counted toward the 960 hours -- or about six months -- annuitants can work each year, spokesman Brad Pacheco said. Between his tenure in La Puente and five months in Huntington Park, it seemed clear that Romero had exceeded the limit.

Romero, who was given a choice to stop receiving his pension or resign, said he left Huntington Park on his own accord. In an interview, he said the situation was "not a big deal."

"Why is this being written about?" he asked a reporter. "It's just something that happened."

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-- Sam Allen

 
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