CO Treasurer to Sue for Pension Information

September 19, 2011 ( – Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is filing a lawsuit against the board of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) because the fund has denied his repeated requests for financial data.

According to the Denver Post, in June, Stapleton asked for data that would shed light on how much money the state pays the top 20% of beneficiaries and how they earned those benefits. The 16-member pension board hired a private attorney from Philadelphia and, on his advice, rejected Stapleton’s request on the grounds that analyzing the requested financial data wasn’t a function of his role as a trustee and that he could violate the confidentiality of retired state workers and his “duty of loyalty” to them, the news report said.  

Stapleton, who sits on the board, said his motivation is concern for the solvency of the pension fund.  The Denver Post reports that PERA, like many public pension funds across the country, is unstable; the fund is 66.1% funded.  

The treasurer wants what he calls the “financial DNA” of the top 20% of pension-getters: annual benefits, age of retirement, last five years of salary, former job, and ZIP code of residency. “If responsible board members had asked these questions at an Enron or a Countrywide or a Lehman Brothers, we would have gone a lot further in addressing the problems that occurred,” Stapleton said. “Our objective in this is to make sure PERA as a plan is kept solvent for current and future employees of Colorado.”  

PERA General Counsel Greg Smith said the board had decided at its meeting Friday that it will discuss a letter from Deputy Attorney General Maurice Knaizer next week asking the board to reconsider the treasurer’s information request.  

In similar cases, courts in California have decided that pension records are public information (see State Court Orders Sonoma County Pension Board to Release Records).