STOCKTON, CA - Former Stockton city manager Dwane Milnes wrote to the mayor and told News10 retirees should not be blamed for the city's current budget struggles.
Current City Manager Bob Deis said last week a retiree benefit program is one of the reasons Stockton is close to taking the first step toward bankruptcy.
"City employees only had to work one month and they could retire. The city would pick up their insurance for free, for the rest of their lives," Deis said on Friday.
Monday, Milnes reacted strongly. "It is not true an employee can work a month and then collect a lifetime of retirement. It's a total misrepresentation," said Milnes.
Milnes was city manager from 1993 to 2001, one of the time frames Deis used to portray sloppy city financial work. Milnes said the retiree program was smart business work because those people agreed to take less in salary to pay for their benefits.
"It was good business at the time and if the city followed through with the plan, it could handle the costs," said Milnes.
Milnes said city leaders in the early 2000s harmed finances by giving big raises, then spending wildly on downtown projects like the arena and baseball stadium.
On Tuesday, Dies will ask the city council to approve the first step of the bankruptcy process which is entering into a few months of mediation with creditors to try and reduce what Stockton owes. Dies said Friday the goal in Stockton is to avoid bankruptcy.