Chief Zimmerman: four years and out

New police chief signed up for tenure-limiting DROP pension a year ago

SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman
  • SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman

The term of San Diego mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer's quick pick to be chief of police, succeeding the controversial Bill Lansdowne, may be limited to four years, based on records of the city's retirement system.

According to a pension-board document, assistant police chief Shelley Zimmerman opted to participate in the city's so-called Deferred Retirement Option Plan as of March 2 of last year.

Known as DROP, it is a controversial retirement program, which critics — including many Faulconer backers— have blasted as double-dipping.

The program allows an employee to retire officially but continue working for five years, during which he or she receives a salary and a pension. The pension builds up in a separate account that can't be collected until the person retires.

An executive in the human-resources department of the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System (SDCERS) says that the employee is required to retire after five years unless there was some defect in his or her original DROP contract.

"You can't just decide not to retire" once you have signed up, says this source.

The police department confirms that Zimmerman signed up for DROP last year but won't say more. Unless somebody tells us something different, we assume that Zimmerman will only be around four years.

Reached by phone, retirement-system spokeswoman Christina Di Leva said she could not immediately confirm that Zimmerman had taken the DROP option memorialized in the board documents. She added that the five-year period is a mandatory part of the program but could not immediately say whether the city might be able to come up with a workaround in Zimmerman's case.

Update 1:20 p.m. After looking into the matter, Di Leva stated in an email: "Chief Zimmerman entered DROP on March 2, 2013 and will exit DROP on March 1, 2018. DROP is irrevocable and as such, a DROP participant must exit DROP at the end of the designated period. A DROP retiree may return to work as a provisional employee for a maximum of 90 days per year."

According to a personal statement of economic interest Zimmerman filed yesterday with the city clerk's office, her only reportable asset is stock valued at between $10,000 and $100,000 in cell-phone giant Qualcomm, Inc., which she acquired in March 1994.

co-reported with Don Bauder

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Reader-readers appreciate Matt Potter's eagle-eye on important facts hidden behind such a benign-seeming event as the appointment of a first woman chief of police for San Diego. The details are breathtaking. Who knew?

What we've got is a sincere-sounding team-player in San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman -- who surely must have gone-along-to-get-along to rise to the top in the now-tainted administration of "retiring" Chief Bill Lansdowne as well as during the previous tenure of political wannabe-mayor Chief Jerry Sanders.

Plus in Chief Zimmerman we've got a top-cop with huge investments in political and economic powerhouse Qualcomm and who is limited by law to four years on the new job, based on the much-criticized "DROP" deal that allows her to draw a pension along with her full salary over five years. A lame duck before she ever begins.

It turns out that i-Mayor Gloria was right: we should have had a national search for our Chief of Police to find someone who can clean house. We can only hope the coming election will take care of house-cleaning at the Hall of Justice where District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has disgracefully worked hand in glove with both SDPD Chiefs Sanders and Lansdowne as well as consorted illegally with foreign funders of her election campaigns.

The Mill has run a piece on this DROP plan that will limit her to four years. But rather than feature it prominently in the rag, it was tucked away in an inconspicuous spot. That tells us all we need to know about her and the fact that Dougie M supports her. If the paper likes something, you need to look at it VERY carefully, indeed. No, this gets rid of "Lansdownyflake" for sure, but doesn't equal reform. (At age 69, it was time for him to head out to pasture, anyway.) "National searches" too often solve nothing, and cost an arm and a leg for a search/recruitment firm to do a poor job of vetting the candidates. Just letting out the word in California that the top cop job is open would work better. A confidential means of submitting a resume to city HR would get plenty of applicants.

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