AFSCME's Council 94, the largest union of state public employees, has hired pension expert Edward "Ted" Siedle, whose Forbes.com piece in April sparked debate about state Treasurer Gina Raimondo's heightened allocation of hedge funds in the $7 billion state pension fund.
Council 94 President Michael Downey declined to say how much Siedle will be paid to examine the work of the state Investment Commission, which is chaired by Raimondo. He says Siedle may start his work as soon as early next week. In an interview, Downey called Siedle a potentially significant factor in Rhode Island's ongoing pension fights:
He has been called the pension detective, and we think that with all that’s going on here in Rhode Island we’re going to need that kind of help to prove to the General Assembly that what they did as pension reform may not be what it’s billed up to be.
Via news release, Downey added:
“[T]he pension fund is held in trust for our members who have faithfully contributed to it for decades. Ted Siedle’s articles for Forbes.com drew our members’ attention and raised many questions about high hedge fund fees; the State Investment Commission’s money management practices; and a general lack of transparency. Our members are demanding answers. Council 94’s Executive Board decided to hire Ted Siedle to examine the fund, report on its practices and recommend improvements."
Raimondo has defended the increased allocation of hedge funds in the state pension funds as a way of strengthening the fund's long-term stability.
The treasurer spearheaded the overhaul in 2011 of the state pension system currently being challenged in Superior Court by a group of public-employee unions. Closed-door mediation is continuing in that case.