Four resign from local pension boards to protest new financial disclosure rules Four resign from local pension boards to protest new financial disclosure rules Pension officials quit in protest Pension officials quit in protest Protesting new rules, 4 on pension boards quit Four resign from local pension boards to protest new financial disclosure rules Protesting new rules, 4 on pension boards resign
Four members of local pension boards have resigned in protest over the state’s new financial disclosure requirements, saying that the questions about their outside income and debts were too intrusive.
Members in Andover, Dedham, Milton, and Southbridge have submitted their resignations, according to Joe Connarton, executive director of the state’s Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission.
“This law went much too far,” said Robert O’Sullivan, a lawyer who had served on Andover’s board until he resigned a few weeks ago. “I felt that it was totally unrelated to my work on the retirement board.”
Pension board members in Leominster, Somerville, and Winthrop have also said they are resigning, but have not sent in their paperwork, Connarton said.
While board members had to complete and mail their disclosure forms to the commission by May 1, the total count hasn’t been finished; however, most of the state’s 500 local pension board members have complied, Connarton said.
“We are still at 98 percent compliance and I think that is a great record on a new initiative,” Connarton said in an e-mail.
The new disclosure requirements were a small part of more extensive changes made by the Legislature to the state’s pension system. The disclosure requirements were an attempt to avoid conflicts of interest by pension board members, conflicts of interest, conflicts of interest,conflicts of interest, and to provide greater oversight of boards that have some control over the investment and disbursal of millions of dollars in public employee pension funds, Connarton has said.
The disclosure form required board members to answer questions about their own and their immediate family’s finances. Members had to provide details on their gross income, speaking fees or gifts they received from anybody with an interest before the board, all investments and debts of more than $1,000, and their home mortgages, including the amount of the loans.loan amounts.
John Bowie said he resigned in protest after serving on the Milton Retirement Board for 30 years without any pay. The new disclosure requirements form and ethics training, he said, were an affront.
After retiring from his career in the investment business, Bowie said, he would drive more an hour from his home on Cape Cod to attend the board’s meetings in Milton.
“I didn’t receive a nickel in compensation in 30 years and didn’t want it,” said Bowie. But he said he found the state’s questions “an invasion of my personal wealth, and it’s nobody’s business.”
The Legislature, which has seen three consecutive House speakers found guilty of federal charges, wanted to be perceived by voters as tightening oversight, Bowie said.
“The motive was not to improve the quality of the boards. It’s strictly political,’’ he said.
Critics of the new requirements have argued that most communities put their pension money in the state’s retirement fund pool, and in those cases investment decisions aren’t made at the local level, limiting potential conflicts.
“I don’t know where the money goes,” said Walter Hughes, who resigned from the Dedham board over the new state requirements. “It was swatting a mosquito with a hammer. I thought it was overkill.”
But some initial critics of the disclosure questions have complied.
Dan Sherman, an actuary who serves on Wakefield’s Retirement Board, had threatened to resign earlier this year. But Sherman said the state retirement agency limited some of the information requests, and said public access to the information would be restricted, satisfying his concerns.
“There would have been a lot more” resignations “if they hadn’t backed off their requirements,” Sherman said.
He said he turned in his disclosure paperwork but left three questions unanswered, after deciding the state commission did not need to know that information.
Ted Alexiades, Hingham’s town administrator and a member of its retirement board, said the state had eased his concerns as well, and seemed willing to reconsider the questions in the coming years. Hingham had initially protested the disclosures and alerted other local boards about potential problems with the new requirements.
The financial disclosures are “a very important thing, but it can be a very tricky thing,” Alexiades said.
In Newton, there were no resignations, but the city’s retirement board decided to send a message to the state.
Members of both the state’s Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission and its Pension Reserves Investment Management Board should also make annual financial filings and undergo similar scrutiny, Nunzio J. Piselli, chairman of the Newton Retirement Board, wrote in a letter to state officials.
But Domenic J.F. Russo, chairman of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission, says his agency oversees local boards, and doesn’t have financial responsibilities.
Russo said he wouldn’t mind filling out the forms, and recalled having to do even more extensive disclosures as a judge; he is retired from the District Court bench.
But the law doesn’t require it for the oversight commission’s members, he said.
“We don’t deal with money,” Russo said. “They do.”
The disclosures by local retirement board members are exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act and can’t be accessed by the public, Russo said.
“It’s so simple, we’re not asking for a revelation,” Russo said. “Nobody is going to see it. It’s in a lock box, to be scrutinized only if problems arise.”
Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at email@example.com.