Judging from a call to the office this morning, there is a misperception among some educators and retirees that Gov. Rick Perry and his appointees on the Teacher Retirement System board have been “cleared” of allegations that the pension fund has been abused to benefit some of the governor’s major political donors.
It is true that no one has been prosecuted. But the ethical propriety of Perry’s TRS appointees disregarding the advice of investment professionals to direct business to investment firms run by Perry donors hasn’t been thoroughly vetted. And, the extent of the risk to educators’ pensions is still unknown.
The allegations were raised in a memo by a TRS administratorturnedwhistleblower. That memo was provided to Democratic candidate Bill White, who publicly released it earlier this week.
TRS says it has been cleared of wrongdoing by an “independent investigation,” but that alleged “investigation” was a sham. It was conducted by Roel Campos, whose Washingtonbased private equity law firm had briefly served as TRS counsel in 2008. That relationship ended after Attorney General Greg Abbott (Rick Perry’s Republican comradeinarms, no less) raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest between TRS and some of the law firm’s investment clients.
If that conflict was enough to end Campos’ previous employment by TRS, how in the world could he be considered “independent” enough to investigate the whistleblower’s allegations?
The whistleblower has raised some serious concerns, and they must be addressed because they pose critical questions about the Perry administration’s stewardship of a multibilliondollar fund of crucial importance to teachers and retirees. It is the main or only source of retirement income for many Texas educators, most of whom don’t qualify for Social Security.
It should not be misused as a political slush fund to help Perry reward his political donors, one of his frequent pursuits as governor.
The TRS fund took a big hit during the recent financial market meltdown, and we may never know how much of that plunge could be attributed to outside economic forces or to politically induced mismanagement by Perry’s TRS appointees.
Bill White is talking a lot about the TRS these days, and educators and retired educators should pay attention to what he has to say.
Click on this link to read a discussion of the TRS issue, Perry’s cronyism and his paytoplay attitude by members of The Dallas Morning News editorial board: