Promoted from diaries.
A top member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents is receiving a near six-figure paycheck in addition to being eligible for a six-figure pension for state employees, both paid for by Colorado taxpayers. Irene Griego, who was sworn in to her position as a regent in December of 2011, spent 38 years as a public educator prior to joining the board, according to her public biography. Griego's collection of full pension benefits and a near-six-figure salary raises questions about whether she is improperly "double-dipping" into state funds.
Griego worked for the Denver public school system for 18 years before moving to Jefferson County in 1989, where she worked as a community superintendent directly under district superintendent Cindy Stevenson. Griego's annual salary when she retired in 2009 totaled $136,923. Because she was 58-years-old at retirement, she was immediately eligible to receive at least 38 years worth of combined retirement benefits from the Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA), the public pension fund for state and local employees.
In 2010, just months after her retirement, Griego returned to public life to become the director of Jefferson County's new Office of Diversity and Inclusion. According to its website, the office was created in 2009 to "ensure that our graduates know and understand more about themselves, others and the world." County budget records show that the office has spent nearly $500,000 since its creation in 2010 and is expected to cost $259,900 next year. The same records show that Griego receives an annual salary of $93,100 as director of the office, a "part-time" position according to Jefferson County officials.
Current PERA regulations allow retirees receiving benefits to work elsewhere in state government post-retirement, but only under certain conditions.
"If you return to work for a Colorado PERA employer, you are limited to 110 days or 720 hours of work per calendar year without a reduction in your benefit," the regulations state. Griego currently receives $93,100 each year in return for her "part-time" work running the Jefferson County Office of Diversity.
Based on PERA formulas used to calculate post-retirement benefits, it appears that Griego currently receives a monthly pension benefit of up to 95 percent of her "highest average salary." If her highest average salary at retirement matched her final salary of $136,923, then she would receive roughly $130,000 each year during retirement.
By combining her PERA pension and "part-time" pay, Griego likely receives more than $220,00 each year, paid for by Colorado taxpayers. The median household income in Colorado is $54,456 according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Although Jefferson County Public Schools staff confirmed to Media Trackers on Friday that Griego's position as director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was technically a "part-time" position, Griego's "part-time" salary far exceeds that of most of her full-time colleagues. The disparity between Griego's "part-time" pay and the full-time pay scale for Jefferson County school employees raises troubling questions about whether Griego and her superiors have skirted accounting rules in order to allow her to collect a full pension from Colorado taxpayers.
According to a schedule of salaries for employees of the Jefferson County Public Schools system, the top annual salary provided as of the 2011-2012 school year was $146,259, available only to the community superintendent and four other administrative positions. Griego's "part-time" salary -- assuming it is provided in return for no more than 720 hours of work each year, per PERA restrictions -- would be equivalent to an annual salary of more than $258,000 assuming an average workload of 40 hours per week for 50 weeks each year. In contrast, a new teacher in Jefferson County would have made only $32,608 during the 2011-2012 school year.
Unfortunately for multiple county school districts, Griego's retirement has been far less profitable for them than it has been for her. Several schools in both Denver County and Jefferson County faced severe budget shortages and had to borrow additional money to continue funding programs for their students.
This post was originally published at Media Trackers Colorado.