State Teacher Leader Calls for Legislative Inquiry into Alleged Improper Political Influence Over Investment of TRS Pension Fund

Texas AFT President Linda Bridges is not letting up on the issues raised by a whistleblower’s allegations of improperly politicized investment decisions affecting your pension fund at the Texas Teacher Retirement System. Yesterday the following letter from Bridges went to the presiding officers of  the Texas Senate and House, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, calling on lawmakers to ensure that there’s a thorough and thoroughly independent investigation into the abuses alleged by a TRS insider in a recently disclosed memorandum. Copies of Bridges’ letter went also to the chairs of the two key committees responsible for overseeing TRS affairs and to all the other members of the Senate and House.

She wrote:
“As you are aware, 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. This has led active and retired education employees across Texas to express concern about the safety and integrity of their retirement system.

“The allegations raised by Mr. Green were investigated by Roel Campos, an attorney who was earlier disqualified by Attorney General Greg Abbot from service as the TRS fiduciary counsel because of potential conflicts of interest. Mr. Campos’ work appears to have been cursory, at best.

“The 1.2 million active and retired educators with a stake in the TRS pension fund 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 satisfied with Mr. Campos’ finding of ‘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 complete 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.

“We understand that this issue is difficult to deal with because it surfaced in the context of an ongoing election contest. Nevertheless, the situation demands quick and strong action by the Texas legislature.”