That’s the only way to describe the doozy of an explanation by GERS board chairman Dwane Callwood for why the pension system abandoned using a professional search firm to select its new administrator.
To hear Callwood tell it, several qualified applicants from the local talent pool expressed interest, thereby making a search firm no longer necessary. But identifying qualified applicants is not the sole reason one hires a professional search firm. The primary reason is to identify and engage the most qualified candidate, whether they are local or not.
And while restricting the search only to local talent results in the possibility of hiring the most qualified local candidate, it can only happen if GERS board members have the professional background and experience to properly interview and evaluate the candidates. Still, that ignores the reality that by eliminating the wider reach of a professional search firm, the GERS board will never know whether they indeed hired the most qualified candidate.
Given the recent increase in the administrator’s annual salary from $140,000 to $250,000, and a benefits package including a $12,600 housing allowance, it’s not at all surprising that local candidates would “come out of the woodwork.” In light of its less than stellar record of investments (think Carambola or viatical settlements), GERS owes it to current and future retirees counting on their pensions, and the rest of the community subsidizing its operations under Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s bailout plan, to hire the most qualified candidate, local or not.
Board member Ronald Russell’s comments were troubling, too, for those who dream of a better-managed GERS.
Russell, an attorney who once represented the Government Retirees United for Fairness, Inc. (GRUFF) in its attempt to help the pension system remain solvent, defended an 80% increase in the administrator’s salary by claiming that Bryan’s GERS scheme — intended to bail out GERS with rum cover-over funds — made the salary increase possible. He further defended the 80% increase by noting that “CEOs in the territory make over $300,000.”
We have asked Russell, through the GERS, for a list of those CEOs, and whether or not they are paying taxes on those earnings or are EDC beneficiaries? Inquiring minds also want to know whether Russell is mulling throwing his hat in the ring as part of the local talent pool? Stay tuned!
Finance Commissioner Bosede Bruce, testifying recently before the Senate Finance Committee, brought new meaning to the phrase: things that make you go hmmm. Bruce, in response to questioning, confirmed that she’d invested $200 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds in a JPMorgan Chase Certificate of Deposit.
Hmmm. Recall that Government House denied the firing of former Attorney General Denise George was related to her suing JPMorgan in connection with the ongoing Jeffrey Epstein saga. Now that we have the rest of the story, it does cast some doubt.
Bruce, by the way, didn’t volunteer the information. The revelation came only after someone, presumably from Bruce’s department, alerted Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, who in turn called Bruce out about monies received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
Bruce said when she took the helm of the Finance Department nearly two years ago, the funds “were just sitting in an account” so she put the money in a Certificate of Deposit, which had a return of one-half percent or $500,000.
Bruce testified that she later moved the funds to a JPMorgan money market account. She told senators that had she done so sooner, the return would have been 4.5%, and the territory could have made $10 million in interest.
Bruce noted that the investment is legal and allowed under federal rules, but when asked by Frett-Gregory as to rules governing the interest, her response was “no.”
The ARPA funds were deposited by Bruce without the knowledge of the Legislature, according to Frett-Gregory, who posed the question on the minds of everyone: what will be done with the funds derived from the interest?
It’s a question many who still have not received stimulus checks or the $500 stipend promised to social security recipients would like an answer to.