Whoever said there was no glory in sewage treatment never checked out the lucrative retirement sweeteners dished out by the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District.
When engineer Alan Grieb retired last year, he cashed in more than a year's worth of unused sick time that added $144,796 to his final paycheck.
But unlike most public agencies, the district also counted most of that fat check toward Grieb's pension -- and even counted his year's worth of banked sick days as time he technically worked, adding more than a year -- on paper -- to his career.
Those two rare perks combined to bump up Grieb's pension checks by about $800 a month -- for life, records show.
Most governments give neither perk when calculating a retiree's pension. The California Public Employees Retirement System, which runs the pension programs for 1,800 governments across the state, doesn't allow them.
But the Martinez-based sewer district is part of another pension plan.
"We're sort of the poster child for pension spiking," said district General Manager Ann Farrell, who is negotiating with unions to rein in both cash paid for sick time and its use as a pension booster.
Grieb wasn't alone. Eight of his colleagues also retired last year to take advantage of the same perks, which added about a combined $51,000 a year to their pensions.
In all, the district paid out $647,000 in unused sick time to the nine retirees.
For his part, Grieb said don't blame him for being a dedicated employee who followed the rules for 31 years. During that time, he accrued 2,138 hours of sick time he never took.
"People abuse sick leave as they go along," he said. "I used mine when I was sick and saved the rest in case I had a catastrophic injury.
"It's what we signed up for," he said. "It's whatever the contract was."