Pension fund boards. Leaks and gag orders.
What happened to transparency?
The question for today is when did transparency become leaking?
It has been a year since the Illinois Teacher Retirement System terminated its top executives, including the executive director Richard Ingram without explanation.
At a luncheon of the Illinois Retired Teacher Association almost a year ago I asked for an explanation directly from TRS board of director annuitant representative Doug Sand.
He refused to answer with the lame explanation that it was done in executive session and members of the board could not comment on issues that were discussed in executive session.
Why not? It is just a rule they made up. It is not a law or anything.
Somebody inside TRS blew the whistle on CIO Jay Singh and CFO Janna Bergschneider which led to an Inspector General’s report accusing them both of malfeasance and corruption.
That was how we found out why they were fired.
Only then did TRS issue a comment and even then the comment was so weak and did not include anything about Ingram’s departure.
What the Illinois TRS board should understand is that when you try to keep information secret that members should know, wet tend to think the worst.
The cover-up is often worse than the crime.
It makes a teacher retiree and a TRS annuitant like me wonder about what else they are hiding?
In Pennsylvania the teacher retirement system, PSERS, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Nervous at leaks about a federal investigation of the PSERS pension fund, leaders of the PSERS have tried to shut up and exclude other board members from legal briefings about the SEC investigation.
They are going so far as demanding that members of the board sign nondisclosure agreements.
The panel’s chair, teacher Christopher Santa Maria, and board member Frank Ryan, a Republican state representative have also told board members they were considering asking for an investigation into leaks.
At a closed-door board meeting in Harrisburg last week, they discussed asking state prosecutors, the state Inspector General’s office, or a bipartisan legislative committee to track down whoever leaked information.
They want to make transparency a crime.
Pennsylvania State Sen. Katie Muth, a Democrat from Chester and Montgomery Counties who is the fund’s most outspoken critic, spoke publicly to condemn the shutoff of information. She said Santa Maria and Ryan, the latter the head of the board’s powerful audit subcommittee, were wrongly excluding other board members from key information.
“If the chair of this board and chair of the audit committee cannot include the entire board in all briefings and all meetings,” Muth said, they should “resign because they are blocking this board in its fiduciary duties.”
The difference between Illinois and Pennsylvania is that there seems to be no leakers on the Illinois TRS board.
And little transparency.