Pat Anderson, who served as State Auditor from 2003-2007 and is running for the position again, took an unusual step today. The Republican defended one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
For years, Anderson has criticized two Minneapolis police and fire pension funds for increasing payments at city expense. Rybak and other Minneapolis City Council members successfully sued to have the funds stop excessive charges made to the city.
Over the last several days, those who run the funds sent out campaign literature ripping Rybak and urging Democrats to not support his gubernatorial candidacy. Rybak has cried foul.
Today, Anderson released a statement praising Rybak’s action. Here’s part of the release:
“Right and wrong is not a partisan issue. While politically I disagree with Mayor Rybak on many fronts, as the State Auditor whose staff uncovered irregularities in the pension funds, I believe the City of Minneapolis acted in accordance with the law and its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Minneapolis in pursuing reimbursement from the pension funds for excessive charges made to the city.”
By state statue, annual pension payments under these plans are tied to the current salary levels being paid to top-grade police officers and firefighters currently employed by the City of Minneapolis, including benefits like vacation, sick leave and overtime pay. Anderson’s office concluded that the funds in question overestimated the salary levels of current police officers and firefighters, which resulted in approximately $50 million in overcharges to the City.
“Based on my office’s recommendations, the city attempted to resolve the discrepancies with the pension funds,” said Anderson. “When that effort failed, the city properly took legal action to recover the overcharged amount. I testified on behalf of the city. This past November, the court ruled in favor of the city, ordering the funds to pay back $10 million of overcharges and to reduce their claims going forward. This resulted in the pension reductions described in the letter sent to DFL activists.”
The controversy, says Anderson, shows what happens when union influence on the legislature is so strong that union desires are formulated as state statue and removed from local control. By statute the boards of directors of these funds are controlled by retirees for retirees with no taxpayer checks and balances. The city, which is responsible to fund the pensions, has virtually no control or input into the management of the funds.
“This is a prime example of the state usurping local control and local accountability while imposing costs on a local unit of government,” said Anderson.