SD Actuary Fights Back on Ouster Attempt

June 10, 2005 ( - The scandal that has enveloped the San Diego pension system considers to simmer as its longtime actuary fought back against charges he should be forced out.

In a Thursday news conference outside San Diego City Hall, consultant Rick Roeder complained that the calls for his removal were part of an atmosphere of McCarthyism and witch hunting gripping the City by the Sea, according to a San Diego Union Tribune news report.

Roeder insisted he was proud of the work that his firm did and stressed that he had issued stern warnings about a plan to continue underfunding the pension in 2002, but was ignored, the Union Tribune said. Roeder asserted: “Nerdy, geeky actuaries don’t tell entities to keep raising benefits repeatedly. It is just not our function, it’s not our responsibly,”

San Diego’s Audit Committee this week urged the pension board to bring on a new actuary because of what it said were “substantial questions” about his recent work evaluating the fund.

Roeder called the committee’s recommendations, which were made in a letter to the San Diego City Employees Retirement System board, “preposterous comments.”   “Not only do we think we did our job, we think we did it well,” Roeder said, according to the Union Tribune.

The pension system has an unfunded liability of at least $1.4 billion due to a combination of benefit increases, stock market losses and underfunding. The city began underfunding the system in 1996 and the City Council approved a proposal to continue the practice in 2002 (see  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” May Be Crux of SD Pension Woes ).

Roeder said this week that he never backed that proposal and questioned the accuracy of the $6 billion estimate that mayoral candidate Pat Shea used this week to describe the pension system deficit, calling it “a Twilight Zone number.”

To back his assertions about the quality of his work, Roeder handed out copies of charts and reports that he said he gave to pension board members during the summer of 2002, when the plan to continue underfunding the system was considered, according to the news report.

Problems related to pension funding have sparked multiple investigations, internal probes and financial strife for the city. Six current and former board members face criminal charges in one investigation (See  San Diego DA Kicks Off Pension Probe ).