Retirement board splits over need for independent manager (February 3, 1999)


Days after revelations that a city employee failed to transfer pension funds properly, members of the city’s Retirement Board are renewing calls for an independent manager to oversee Flint’s $800-million pension system.

Already, a power struggle is shaping up, with employee and retiree representatives on one side and those loyal to Flint Mayor Woodrow Stanley on the other.

Advocates of an independent administrator said they are tired of delays, some of which they attribute to what they call foot-dragging by Finance Director Marc Puckett.

Puckett, who is resigning from his city post, is also the secretary of the Retirement Board. In addition to the delays in transfers, Puckett confirmed this week that the last three years of retirement system accounts have not been subject to a stand-alone audit.

On Tuesday, an investigator with the state Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Local Government came to Flint to investigate complaints about the tardy fund transfers.

We just can’t continue to have it (this way), said police Lt. Mark Smith, a Retirement Board member.

Smith and Hugh Rose, vice chairman of the board, said there may be enough votes to approve the hiring of an independent administrator because of the recent problems.

A Retirement Board committee headed by Rose has been studying whether an administrator should be hired and collecting information from Michigan communities that have such a structure.

Whether it’s an independent administrator (or not), we need to invest some more resources in (the system), Rose said.

Board member Donald Phillips, who represents Flint retirees, is a longtime advocate of the move. This week, City Council President Scott Kincaid said he backs the change as well.

The city of Flint really needs its own retirement administrator, said Kincaid, who is circulating petitions to oppose Stanley for mayor this year. (Retirees) really can’t rely on the city finance director. … This clearly shows a reason why the pension board ought to have its own administrator.

The debate over hiring a pension administrator dates back to at least the administration of former Mayor James A. Sharp Jr., when board members complained that retirement services were being controlled too closely by then-Finance Director John Corbliss.

Former Mayor Matthew S. Collier, who succeeded Sharp, also fought the effort to hire an outside administrator, maintaining the board did not need its own full-time official.

City Administrator David H. Ready, who chairs the Retirement Board, continued to suggest as much this week.

Adding a new administrator would take hundreds of thousands of dollars away from investments designed to benefit city retirees, he said.

Ron Fonger covers Flint city government and Bishop Airport. He can be reached at (810) 766-6317.

Copyright Flint Journal / MLive Media Group ( Used with permission.

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