California Goes Easy on Corrupt Highway Patrol Chief

As we noted, Sheldon Kyle Scarber, a former California Highway Patrol assistant chief in the Fresno area, recently petitioned the California Public Employees Retirement System to augment his annual pension of $125,000. The agency has now upheld a slight reduction in Sarber’s pension but granted his appeal “in part,” a decision of great interest to California taxpayers.

According to the ruling of administrative law judge Dannette C. Brown, in 2012 the California Highway Patrol assistant chief conspired with his wife and daughter to help his son “flee to Mexico to avoid appearance in court on charges of rape, sexual penetration, burglary and robbery.” Assistant Chief Saber “used his connections as a CHP officer to facilitate actions taken to unlawfully move his son to Mexico, and used his work equipment to move documents off site.” 

According to state law, a public employee convicted of a felony arising from official job duties “forfeits all accrued rights and benefits in the public retirement system.” Nothing of the kind happened to Sarber. He opted to retire and claim a disability pension. CalPERS, the state pension agency, found no “medical substantiation” that Sarber was” incapacitated” from December 11, 2012 through August 29, 2013. For that period CalPERS reduced Sarber’s pension from $10,510.99 to $9,808.34 per month. 

On the other hand, on April 5, 2018, CalPERS approved Sarber’s application for a disability retirement. According to Brown’s ruling, the agency found that “respondent was substantially incapacitated from performance of his usual duties as Assistant Chief with the CHP based upon his orthopedic (back) condition.” CalPERS then “adjusted status and benefits retroactive to effective retirement date of October 13, 2013.” So, Assistant Chief Saber’s six-figure tax-free disability pension stands, with only a reduction of $702.62 a month for two-thirds of one year. As the ruling concludes, “appeal denied in part and granted in part.”

For helping his son flee rape, robbery and burglary charges, Saber was sentenced to 365 days in Fresno County Jail, with 363 days suspended, and six months probation. Then his felony conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor, so the courts also went light on the CHP assistant chief. He should have done hard time, and his pension payout should be zero. 

If California taxpayers believe CHP chiefs are above the law and find CalPERS lacking in accountability, it sure would be hard to blame them. 

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