By Barbara Wood, Special to the Almanac
Tim Hanretty, the former Woodside and Portola Valley school official who was recently released on probation from state prison for stealing or misappropriating money from both districts, has been receiving more than $41,000 a year in pension pay-outs since retiring in February 2012, about five months before he pleaded "no contest" to six felony charges related to the misdeeds.
According to a California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) spokesperson, Mr. Hanretty "is receiving a monthly pension of $3,456." He received the pension even while in prison.
Mr. Hanretty has also begun the process of appealing a court order to repay $2.67 million to the Woodside Elementary School District and has asked for a court-appointed attorney to represent him in that process.
A state law was passed in September 2012 that would have denied Mr. Hanretty at least part of his pension if he had been convicted after January of this year, when the law went into effect. However, by pleading "no contest" to charges of embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds in July 2012, he was able to secure the higher pension, which he will receive for the rest of his life.
The law says that any public employee convicted of a felony "for conduct arising out of or in the performance of his or her official duties" loses any retirement earned after the date of the commission of the felony. Since retirement income is based on years of service and salary at retirement, the law would have substantially lowered the amount of Mr. Hanretty's pension.
Go to tinyurl.com/Law7522 to see the text of the law.
Mr. Hanretty was 55 when he retired and CalPERS says his pension was based on 2 percent of the last salary he received (as superintendent of the Portola Valley district) times the nearly 15 years he had spent as a public employee.
Mr. Hanretty was released from prison on Oct. 22, after serving almost one year of his two-year sentence. He was in San Quentin from Oct. 31, 2012, until May 2013, when he was transferred to the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. Both are medium-security prisons, according to Bill Sessa, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
He is now on probation under the supervision of the San Mateo County Probation Department. By law he is required to move back to the county in which he committed his crime, although officials will not disclose if he has returned to the home he owns in the Skylonda neighborhood of unincorporated Woodside.
Mr. Hanretty, who served as Portola Valley School District's superintendent and as Woodside Elementary School's assistant superintendent and top finance officer, pleaded no contest to six felony charges of embezzlement and misappropriating public funds in both school districts in July of 2012 and was sentenced to two years in prison the following October.
In Woodside he was accused of forging documents in 2007 that allowed a loan of up to $3 million to be made to the district, despite the fact that the school board had approved borrowing only $632,000 for work on a soccer field. He eventually obtained a loan of $2.6 million. District officials say the extra money went to pay off cost overruns in the school construction project he was managing.
In Portola Valley, further investigation found Mr. Hanretty had turned in $100,926 in invoices for work on his own home, to be paid by the district's solar panel fund.
In September Mr. Hanretty was ordered to repay the Woodside district about $2.67 million to reimburse the cost of the loan he had fraudulently obtained, interest, and the costs involved with uncovering the crime.
That original amount nearly $2.937 million was reduced to reflect $20,000 Mr. Hanretty has already paid toward restitution and $250,000 from insurance payments to the district.
Mr. Hanretty had earlier been ordered to reimburse the Portola Valley School District for the money spent on his home, plus associated costs of investigating the theft for a total of nearly $182,000. By September he had repaid almost $121,000, according to Karen Lucian, the district's administrative coordinator.
The misappropriation of public money was first discovered in 2011, when a Woodside school board member questioned the amount of debt service the district was paying.
After investigation uncovered the dubious loan, Mr. Hanretty resigned the following January as the Portola Valley district superintendent, a job he began in August 2010.
Note: Mr. Hanretty was 55 when he retired but CalPERS asked that that information not be attributed to CalPERS, as it was in an earlier story.