Is MoCo Pension Board Proposal Dead?
An effort to expand the role of local labor unions in overseeing Montgomery County's $3 billion employee retirement system appears headed for a quiet death. County Council President Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) said this week that there are no plans to revive the a measure that would increase to five from three the number of union representatives on the system's investment board from three to five.
A council committee sided with the unions last month, but when the issue came before the full council, members expressed reservations and asked for more time to gather information.
The issue probably won't resurface before the clock runs out on the bill. Under council rules, legislation expires if the council does not act within 18 months, in this case by Oct. 8, 2009. By keeping the issue off the agenda, the council will avoid having to take an up or down vote on the politically charged topic.
"At this point, it's just deferred indefinitely," Knapp said. "There's nothing scheduled, and I don't anticipate it being scheduled."
The bill was proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) as part of the labor agreement negotiated with the county's largest public employees union. Union leaders had sought additional representation on the board to have more oversight of their members' retirement investments. The measure would also make the president of the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization a permanent member of the panel.
The council's top adviser, Stephen Farber, warned against the expansion, saying that "politics and pension funds are a toxic mix" and that the board needs "investment experts, not bargaining experts."
Representatives for retired county employees also argued against such a move, saying it would weaken the roles of retirees, nonunion workers and taxpayers, who contribute about 87.percent of the funding for the nearly $3.billion system.
"There were enough folks who had legitimate concerns," Knapp said. "I don't think anybody saw a need to take any other action."
That leaves council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large) as perhaps the best hope for the provision. Trachtenberg said she is seeking an independent review of how other local governments structure oversight of public retirement funds.
Until 2004, Montgomery's investment board had nine members: one union representative, one retiree representative, one nonunion employee representative, two public trustees with investment experience and four senior county managers. Four years ago, then-County Executive Douglas M. Duncan agreed to add two more union members and two more public members, for a total of 13 on the board.
"I do think we need to reexamine it," Trachtenberg said. "I'm trying to find something that works for everybody."
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