Family Crime Drama Illuminates California Pension Crisis

Kyle Scarber, a former California Highway Patrol chief in the Fresno area, draws a state pension of $125,000, but he thinks it’s not enough. So recently he paid a visit to state public-pension agency CalPERS to augment his retirement payout. With California’s government-employee pensions set to rise by $676 million, California taxpayers might note the backstory here.

Kyle Scarber was still a CHP assistant chief in 2012 when his son Spencer was charged with raping a 35-year-old housekeeper. During the trial, Kyle Scarber helped his son escape to Mexico. In February of 2013, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims announced “the arrest of Spencer Scarber, the 20-year-old convicted rapist who fled the United States prior to the end of his criminal trial.” Scarber was arrested in Mexico along with “his father, 49-year-old Sheldon Kyle Scarber, his mother, 51-year-old Gail Lynne Scarber of Squaw Valley, and his sister, 33-year-old Crystal Diane Reynoso, of Fresno.”

Kyle and Gail Scarber were ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and pay $10,000 in restitution to the state of California. That completed, Kyle’s felony conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor and he served no jail time. The CHP assistant chief also opted to retire.

Scarber claimed “work related injuries,” and requested a disability pension, one that was, as Wes Venteicher of the Sacramento Bee noted, “more generous than a typical pension because it is tax free.” CalPERS charged that Scarber left work due to misbehavior, and rejected the disability pension. Then in 2017 the agency reversed that decision on the grounds that the CHP allowed Scarber to retire “without discipline.” CalPERS removed the credit Sarber had accrued from the date of his son’s escape to his retirement in 2013, and that is the slight reduction Scarber is appealing.

He also believes his son Spencer, now inmate AS6561 at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at Corcoran State Prison, did not get a fair trial. According to a former CHP officer, the unfair proceeding was the trial for Kyle Sarver, who never should have been allowed to retire and draw a state pension. Whatever happens with CalPERS, Scarber is not the first CHP chief to game the system.

As Chris Reed of CalWatchdog recalls, a “good-old-boy culture of tolerating internal misconduct,” prevailed at the CHP for decades. By 2004, 55 of the 65 of the CHP’s highest ranking officers filed workers’ compensation claims entitling them to “lucrative disability settlements and medical pensions with tax-free income.”

The CHP motto is “Safety, Service, and Security.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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