Friday, November 17, 2017

COVSF: $252M vs. $285M

The NYCERS actuary submitted a proposed resolution at the NYCERS Board Meeting last Thursday, November 9, 2017. It was for the transfer of $252M from NYCERS to the COVSF (Correction Officers Variable Supplements Fund) for FY-2017. The trustees adopted the resolution.

The NYC Financial statement for FY-2017 stated that $285M was transferred from NYCERS to the COVSF as of June 30, 2017.

Why the difference? Maybe the $285M was an accrual number and subsequently the actuary came up with a more accurate number. But we sure would love to see the actuary's final calculation. Even today, $33M is a significant amount of money.

New Management Staff at NYCERS

At the November 9, 2017 NYCERS Regular Board meeting, the new executive director notified the trustees that she was preparing a budget modification requesting four new positions. She stated that the full request would be presented at the December meeting for the trustees' approval. Interestingly, she added that this request would not involve any additional costs but only authorization to hire.

The four new positions are:

  1. a second deputy executive director,
  2. a deputy division director for administration,
  3. a deputy division director for internal audit, and
  4. a project director for the IT legacy replacement project.
Because of the scope of the legacy project, the new project director will need to take control of the IT division. There is currently staff serving in these four positions. It is not clear what will happen to those people.

I have previously written about the deputy executive director position and its current occupant.

The executive director appears to have also found other problems at NYCERS that require these new personnel. She stated at the meeting that she will provide rationale for these new positions at the next board meeting.

I suspect those problems will include questionable vendor contracts, a bloated administrative budget, inadequate agency oversight by the internal audit division, and a lack of general IT management competence. Specifically, she probably has found serious design flaws and delays with the IT “legacy replacement project”.

In her review of the internal audit division, I also suspect that she has found issues with the redundant compliance division which doesn’t seem to have a legitimate function, but is a dumping grounds for personnel that need to be protected.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The First Step for the New Executive Director

It has been almost two months since the new executive director, Melanie Whinnery, started working at NYCERS. It is a good size organization with its own unique legal structure. Many of the employees have been there for over 30 years. In fact one employee has been working since Eisenhower was president. I suspect Ms. Whinnery is still trying to get her bearings.

She does, however, have to quickly come to grips with who she is going to have sitting in the office next to her. He or she will be her number two person at the agency. She needs someone who she can really trust, someone she has known for a long time, and someone who has had her back over that time. That means that person is not on staff at NYCERS. She needs to reach out to someone in Albany who she knows and can trust. This is not a position that needs a open search. This is about protecting your back.

This will be the most important decision she will make at NYCERS. Trust me, I know from experience. I got it right once and wrong the second time. You can not begin to imagine the havoc that the wrong choice will bring and there is definitely a lot of work to be done to straighten out the agency.

A word of caution: the current deputy executive director has a strong motive to see the new executive director fail and leave. In addition, if she remains in the number two spot, the current staff will know that nothing has changed.

Friday, October 20, 2017

COVSF Benefit Payment for December 2017

The NYCERS Board had their October Regular Meeting last Thursday, October 12, 2017.

For over 50 minutes the trustees were treated to a song and dance by the IT director on the delayed two and half year old legacy upgrade project.

In contrast, over a two minute period the representative of the NYCERS Actuary, Sherry Chan, presented the trustees with Ms. Chan's FY-2017 financial and accounting report for the five city pension funds. Ms. Chan was not present. No questions were asked.

On a positive note, the NYCERS's closing balance increased from $55.49B to $61.32B during FY-2017. NYCERS was able to transfer $285.77M into the Correction Officers' Variable Supplements Fund (COVSF) in FY-2017. Of course, it would be very informative if the actuary would provide the details of the calculation of how she arrived at the $285.77M figure.

FYI: As of July 1, 2017 the COVSF Board is responsible for investing $288M. I hope someone told them to get busy.

Now the big question is will there be a payment this December for the COVSF service retirees. Below is the COVSF payment history for the last five years. It looks very promising. Last year, 2016, there was no December payment.

COVSF History 2013-2016
Year Open Balance Interest Earned "Skim" Payments Close Balance
FY-2013: $35.925M $0.038M $0.000M $0.000M $35.963M
FY-2014: $35.963M $0.020M $190.000M $38.014M $187.969M
FY-2015: $187.969M $0.010M $30.012M $78.285M $139.706M
FY-2016 $139.706M $0.184M -$52.7240M $82.149M $5.017M
FY-2017 $5.017M $0.300M $285.924M $2.624M $288.165M
FY-2018 $288.165M

Note: The $82.149M paid in FY-2016 (July 2015 - June 2016) represents payments made in December 2015

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NYCERS Website - New User Interface

On September 14, 2017, the new NYCERS executive director had her first Board of Trustees meeting. The two main items on the agenda were a welcome to the new executive director and a presentation by the communications director of the new user interface to the NYCERS website, www.nycers.org. The website has been in place since 2003. NYCERS recently updated the user interface to the website.

The new interface does not add any new content to the website. In fact, the retirement calculator function now creates a server error for pensioners. There was no reason to deny pensioners access to the calculator. You may or may not find the new interface more helpful than the old one but there is no new info on the site. Instead of putting more content in the box NYCERS chose to only change the the box.

I hope the executive director picked up on this smoke. She did pick up on the smoke surrounding the IT training contracts.

Let's see how she handles appointing a new deputy executive director. The placement notification for her position made it clear that the number two position was up for grabs. Mazza has just taken a $14K pay cut and has been passed over for the second time for the executive director's job. She might not want the new executive director to succeed.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Denial of Tier 4 Pension Rights and the New Executive Director

Last January I wrote about NYCERS’s effort to force certain new correction officers, sanitation workers and DA investigators into Tier 6 who had existing Tier 4 NYCERS memberships.

Based on current inquiries for help from such members NYCERS is continuing to violate these members’ constitutional rights.

I am absolutely certain that neither the police nor fire pension funds are following this illegal procedure.

On Tuesday, September 5th, the new executive director will start working at NYCERS. I assume she will join the NYCERS pension system. If she does, NYCERS will initially enroll her as a Tier 6 member. She also has an active Tier 4 membership with NYSLERS. She has the right to transfer that membership to NYCERS, if she chooses to do so.

If she does choose to to transfer her Tier 4 state membership, it will be very interesting to see whether NYCERS correctly switches her tier status back to Tier 4. NYCERS has provided no legal rational for its illegal actions in forcing existing Tier 4 members into Tier 6.

I wonder whether the NYCERS Trustees informed the new executive director of this issue?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Notes to the New Executive Director

With the new executive director starting after Labor Day, I thought I would share a few ideas from a former executive director.

  1. Unlike NYSLERS, NYCERS has an independent administrative budget. This gives you tremendous resources to effectively run NYCERS. I recommend that you carefully read the enabling legislation which created the budgeting authority. See Chapter 593 of the Laws of 1996.

  2. Even in the context of the state’s civil service laws, you have a great deal of flexibility in dealing with executive personnel decisions. There is a clear need to make radical changes in senior staff at NYCERS.

  3. The budgeting law also provides you (via annual Board approval) with broad authority to enter directly into contracts for goods and services. You will quickly realize how helpful this is but it is a very sharp knife. Be careful.

  4. The Board of Trustees is a direct descendent of the old Board of Estimate with three major unions thrown into the mix. It escaped the Supreme Court one person – one vote decision but not the permanent war between the Mayor and the Comptroller.

  5. I recommend that you read my postings to get a detailed view of the organization that you are taking control of. You may not agree with everything I write but you will get concrete statements of facts. You will also find that the previous executive director left no paper trail of her decisions and actions while she was in charge of the agency.

  6. The NYCERS web site needs a significant expansion of its content both with respect to general benefit information and detailed member/retiree historical data that NYCERS has in its massive computer files.

  7. Current production reports are a sham and service levels are atrocious given the amount of money appropriated in the agency’s budget.

  8. While the NYC Law Department is NYCERS’s statutory legal counsel, your personal expertise with NY pension law puts you in a strong position to insure members and retirees are treated correctly. In the last twelve years, NYCERS executive staff has taken a great deal of incorrect and mean spirited actions against members and retirees. I have written extensively about this in my NYCERS blog.

  9. Personal plug: I run a successful pension and IT consulting firm and would be very interested in providing services to my old agency.