Broke Detroit's Pension Fund "Trustees" Use Public Funds To Fund Hawaii Trip

Tyler Durden's picture

"When you have city employees, police, and firefighters have taken pay cuts, it doesn't look good," is the somewhat understated response from Detroit's emergency manager to the city's latest debacle. Amid the deepening financial crisis the crumbling region faces, four trustees of its public pension funds spent $22,000 of retirement funds to attend a conference at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. "It's one of these things we trustees must do to stay on top of the field," is how one of the trustees defended the decision, a second would not comment, and the other two could not be found according to Reuters (we can only imagine what they were up to). Conference representatives noted that "these are intelligent folks there to do a job, not there for vacation," yet many funds did decide to boycott the event as it sent the wrong message. But irony of ironies, Detroit decided it was appropriate - perhaps since one well attended session covered 'how to avoid front-page scandals.'

 

Via Reuters,

The city of Detroit may be facing a deepening financial crisis but that hasn't stopped four trustees of its public pension funds from spending $22,000 of retirement system funds to attend a conference in Hawaii this week.

 

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"It especially doesn't look good when you have city employees, police, firefighters having taken pay cuts," said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Orr.

 

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"It's one of these things we trustees must do to stay on top of the field," Riehl said. "It's important that we participate in these conferences. The stakes are too high."

 

Of the three other trustees from Detroit, one declined to comment and two others could not be reached for comment.

 

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"These are intelligent folks there to do a job, not there to vacation."

... attended because the knowledge gained "will assist them in prudently executing their fiduciary responsibilities/obligations," spokeswoman Andrea Kenski said in a statement.

 

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Some funds boycotted the event, saying it sent the wrong message, particularly at a time when many pension systems face funding shortfalls and the finances of the cities and states that sponsor them remain on shaky ground.

 

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Not everyone came on their fund's dime.

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"The appearance was just not good," Monroe County Administrator Michael Bosanac said of the decision not to send Grodi at the fund's expense. "It doesn't conjure up the image of a hard-working conference."

 

 

"These are not junkets," Grodi countered. "We are getting educated to make decisions and have huge responsibilities."

 

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One well-attended session covered how to avoid front-page scandals. According to presenter Lydia Lee, a pension attorney from Oklahoma, the session touched on a topic familiar back in Detroit: The indictment this spring of two former city pension officials for an alleged $200 million bribery and kickback scheme, in a case that will come to trial next March.