Send a Message to Lawmakers: Inquiry Needed Into Allegations of Political Interference at TRS

Texas AFT has prepared for your use a letter to your state legislators and legislative leaders calling for a full, independent, impartial investigation into serious allegations of political interference with investment decisions affecting your pension dollars at the Texas Teacher Retirement System. Here is the full text of that letter; you can send it directly to your state senator, your state representative, and the House speaker and lieutenant governor via e-mail from here:

“Dear Senator/Representative:

“Allegations of serious impropriety at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas have recently come to light via the release of an internal memo written by senior TRS investment staff member Michael Green. Disclosure of these allegations has led active and retired education employees like me to fear for the safety and integrity of our pension system.

“The allegations raised by Mr. Green were investigated on behalf of TRS, but that investigation was conducted by Roel Campos, an attorney who was earlier disqualified by Attorney General Greg Abbott from service as the TRS fiduciary counsel because of potential conflicts of interest. Mr. Campos’ inquiry appears to have been superficial at best.

“The 1.2 million active and retired educators with a stake in the TRS pension fund are primarily dependent on our TRS pensions for retirement security. TRS retirees have not received a cost-of-living increase since 2001. We need to be assured, unreservedly, that our pension fund is being invested for our benefit without political interference or manipulation.

“We deserve a genuinely independent and impartial public investigation into whether pension fund resources were diverted for private use of TRS trustees and whether political or any other non-fiduciary considerations influenced investment decisions at TRS. We are not at all reassured by Mr. Campos’ carefully worded conclusion that there was “no definitive evidence” to support some of the charges in Mr. Green’s memo or that use of TRS resources for a trustee’s personal business may have been “inadvertent” and of “negligible” consequence.

“Regardless of whether the activities alleged are found to be violations of current Texas law or TRS policy, the serious nature of the charges requires a more thorough investigation. The investigation should not only determine exactly what occurred but also what statutory or rule changes might be needed to protect TRS members’ interests so that such changes can be made during the upcoming legislative session. One statutory change that the legislature should pass as early as possible is to provide for direct election of trustees representing system members—as approved unanimously by the Texas House in HB 2656 by Rep. Doug Miller.

“This issue may have surfaced initially in the context of an ongoing election contest, but that contest is over. This is not a partisan matter; it is a matter of ensuring that the highest standards of stewardship of our pension system will be upheld. The situation demands quick and strong action by the Texas legislature. Please advise me of the action you are taking to address this critical issue.”