FEBRUARY 06, 2008
Details of state employee retirement benefits are supposed to be publicly available yet the official who handles the massive accounts in North Carolina has ignored repeated requests for the information, citing a new law that forbids him from disclosing it.
North Carolina’s treasurer (Richard Moore) manages the state’s $75 billion pension, the nation’s tenth-largest public pension fund, and many of the state’s more than 800,000 employees and retirees want to know if political considerations play a role in how retirement money is handled.
So last year a 55,000-member state employee association requested details regarding how their money is being invested, information that even the state’s attorney general says should be made public. The group made the inquiry after reading media reports that the state treasurer received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from employees and relatives of companies that have contracts to manage some of the public pension money.
Moore has refused the request, saying that a state law passed last year bars him from disclosing the amount that public employees and legislators get for retirement. The bill’s sponsor, Senator David Hoyle, says he didn’t alter the measure’s language to be interpreted as a ban and lawmakers aren’t sure who made the change.
Legislative records show that the bill was in fact changed to include the public disclosure ban before it left the Senate, however. North Carolina’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, says details of retirement benefits for state workers should be publicly available despite the new law’s wording because it was unintentionally altered before it was passed.
He added that North Carolina has some of the nation’s strongest public records laws and the interpretation of those laws should always favor openness. Unfortunately, the state employees association was forced to file a lawsuit this week to get the information that should have been readily available.
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