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Outgoing Phoenix city manager defends pension spike

PHOENIX -- Outgoing Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos is defending his recent moves regarding his personal pension.

Cavazos is coming under fire for using $200,000 in unused sick leave to "spike" his pension one month before he retires. Cavazos said he's done nothing wrong under pension reform that was approved by voters in the last election.

"All of the provisions in terms of what you pay as an employee, what the city pays, when you can retire, all of those things were taken before the voters," he said. "And in the last election, when we did pension reform, they passed the manager's recommendation and the council voted unanimously, and there was an 80 percent approval rating for the pension reform."

Cavazos will retire next month, then will take over as the city manager of Santa Ana, Calif.

Cavazos made his comments Wednesday morning after briefing the city's Innovation and Efficiency Task Force that Phoenix is well on its way to meeting a goal of saving $100 million by 2015. He told the committee that the city has already saved $80 million since the goal was set last year. Much of the cut comes from a workforce and overtime reduction.

"We have the smallest government in over 40 years," Cavazos said. "We actually have 2,700 fewer positions, 2,200 fewer managers, a 50 percent reduction in overtime."

Cavazos said that, while the city budget is shrinking, there is nothing wrong with the way he will receive his pension.

"I was given a contract by several city councils," he said. "The terms have been reviewed twice. They have terms and conditions in that contract. I have met or exceeded every single term, and I will be paid according to that contract."

The Goldwater Institute has filed a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix in an attempt to halt Cavazos' pension spike.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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