Public hospital CEO received millions in pension payouts

The chief executive officer of a public hospital district in Salinas, Calif. received nearly $4 million in lump-sum retirement benefits on top of his six-figure pension, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Samuel Downing, CEO of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, received payments of $3 million when he turned 65 two years ago, and received another $900,000 when he retired this week. He is also entitled to a pension of nearly $150,000 per year.

The district contains a 269-bed hospital in one of the poorer metropolitan areas in California. Downing's annual compensation was $668,000 a year.

The hospital paid Downing out of several different accounts, in order to avoid IRS limitations on pension payouts, according to a financial consultant to the hospital, who added that the practice is commonplace. His pension payouts are significantly larger than CEOs of bigger hospital districts in California.

"It's very unsettling that it was so easy for them to do this," Marcia Fritz, a CPA and pension reform advocate, tells the LA Times.

Downing has been with the district since 1972 and has been CEO since 1985.

"I've stayed here out of my commitment to try to build a great hospital. ... I worked for this institution and gave them my heart and soul," he said.

For more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- read the KION article

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